Budget proposal dims Bright Futures

The Florida Student Association met with the FAMU student senate Wednesday to discuss the governor’s budget proposal and the FSA’s plan to save the Bright Futures Scholarship program.

“We are not too happy with Governor Bush’s budget proposal,” said FSA president Scott Ross. He also said the FSA — a student issues group composed of student body presidents of state universities and their staffs — was against higher education budget cuts.

Ross was referring to the governor’s budget proposal unveiled last week, which would eliminate $111.5 million from the state’s annual university budget.

Ross said he wants to ensure the legislature makes higher education its top priority.

“Our job is to make sure the government sees higher education as an investment into the future,” Ross said. “Students are the best lobbyists.”

Sophomore Senator Chelsea Hall said the proposal could mean a “tuition increase of 7% for in-state students and 12 percent for out of state students.”

Hall also questioned if the FAMU Board of Trustees were aggressive enough in attaining the $5 million allotted to FAMU’s Law School.

Scott Ross also revealed FSA’s “3-prong attack to save the Bright Futures Scholarship Program,” to include a media blitz, letter campaign and student rally.

The FSA held a press conference at its monthly meeting in Boca Raton on January 24 to fight to keep the scholarship program

The second stage of the attack solicits the help of parents of Bright Futures Scholarship recipients. Parents of recipients can download the letter from the FSA website, sign it and send it to their respective legislatures.

“Parents need to barrage senators to save this program,” Ross said.

Student petitions to save the program will also be disbursed at FSA membership universities. SGA Deputy Chief of Staff Larry Rivers will head this initiative for FAMU.

The final stage of the attack, Ross said, “will be the largest student-lead rally in Florida history!”

Ross said he and university student body presidents will march to Jim Byrd and Senate President Jim King’s offices, give them the petitions and demand they save the scholarship program. A location and date for the rally have yet to be determined.

Senior senator Marcus Sandifer was very impressed with Ross’ statements and FSA’s united front.

“The program serves as an incentive to Florida residents,” Sandifer said, a Bright Futures recipient.

He added that if it had not been for the program he would have probably went to college out of state.

According to the Florida Department of Education, the Bright Futures Scholarship program disbursed $174 million for the 2001-2002 academic school year.

Ross commended the senate for its support and efforts and said the fight to save Bright Futures would be more like a marathon than a sprint.

“We are in this for the long run.”