Republican lawmakers want to change Bright Futures

The financial aid option button on iRattler. Photo by Paulette Jordan

A bill filed on Feb. 23 may affect the financial aid students receive from the Bright Futures scholarship based on their chosen majors. Florida Republican Senator Dennis Baxley is the sponsor of the bill.

“It’s definitely not fair,” said Mason Hicks, a freshman at the University of Florida majoring in international studies and economics. “Everyone should be given a chance, since there’s so many jobs that only require a college degree, and it’s not very important what type of degree that is.”

The bill, SB 86, titled Student Financial Aid, asserts that the Florida Board of Governors and the state Board of Education would approve a list of degree programs that lead directly to employment after college graduation. The list would be updated each year considering “national, state and regional industry demand for certificate holders and graduates.”

“The last thing we want — and it happens too often — is people winding up at the end of their bachelor’s degree and then finding out they’re not hirable and all they’re doing is sitting there with a pile of debt,” Baxley said at a news conference after filing the bill. “I just want students to know that part of this is helping you own your own future rather than view yourself as a dependent, waiting for someone else to take care of this.”

Students studying in programs not on the list would get funding from Bright Futures for only 60 credit hours, half of a normal bachelor’s degree. The logic in this is that funding the first two years of credits would allow students to adapt to a degree that would be on the list.

If the bill becomes law, students already on Bright Futures and new college students would have their financial aid affected.

“What ends up happening is, wherever you do your studies, whether you graduate with a bachelor’s or you go get a master’s or a Ph.D., you tend to stay there. And we want that talent to stay in our state, and we want to bring that talent from other states,” state Rep. Rene Placensia, Republican from Orlando, said.

SB 86 would go into effect on July 1 of this year, if approved by both chambers and singed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

 Students who receive Bright Futures scholarships could have their aid adjusted as early as fall semester of 2021, meaning that classes 2022-2025 would be impacted.

“A student may enroll in the State University System and they may get in-state tuition, however there are other components and other aspects that is going to force the hand of those state universities to find money and resources in order to accommodate a groundswell of students coming to those institutions,” said Representative Ramon Alexander, a Democrat from Tallahassee.

The bill was put on hold Tuesday and is expected to undergo changes. A group of prospective college students are opposing the bill under the name Save Bright Futures.

“Regardless of what program they’re in, everyone deserves a fair chance for education, and to pursue their passions rather than worrying about what figure is on their paycheck. People deserve to go after what they want to do,” said Kaylee Duong, an Orlando high-school senior who is part of the group.