State Sen. Bill Galvano filed two essential bills in the Senate’s Excellence in Higher Education Agenda, which seeks to improve Florida colleges and universities while keeping schools accountable to taxpayers.
The Bradenton Republican, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education, filed Senate Bills 2 and 4 Wednesday for the 2017 Legislative Session, which begins March 7.
Known collectively as the “Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act,” SB 2 promotes on-time graduation by expanding financial assistance and support for students, streamlining the “2+2 program” of articulation, student retention and on-time graduation in four years with a baccalaureate degree.
SB 4 also looks to expands policy and funding tools, which will help universities recruit and retain the best faculty, as well as boost professional and graduate schools. Part of the bill will be used to improve aging infrastructure and research laboratories.
“This package of policy enhancements and funding investments will elevate the prominence of our state universities and increase their ability to compete as national destination institutions while preserving access and increasing affordability for Floridians,” Galvano said of the act.
“These bills are key components of a comprehensive higher education agenda that will boost the strength and competitiveness of our state’s higher education system as our primary economic engine to drive vibrant, sustainable economic development and growth in high-paying jobs,” Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican, said in a statement.
“Florida taxpayers see a return worthy of their investment in our entire PreK-20 system,” Negron added, “when our top Florida students attend our own universities, complete degree programs on time, and then graduate with job opportunities in high-demand fields needed in our growing communities.”
Included among the initiatives in SB 2 is a reinstatement of the highest tier of Bright Futures Scholarship Program Award (Florida Academic Scholar), covering 100 percent of tuition and certain tuition-indexed fees, including the summer term, plus $300 for textbooks and college-related expenses during the fall and spring terms.
The bill expands the Benacquisto Scholar Program to provide awards for qualified out-of-state students, with funds allotted under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) In an amount equal to the highest cost of resident student attendance at a state university. The student must physically reside in the community of the school he or she is attending. Also, SB 2 revises the First-Generation Matching Grant Program to increase funds to two-to-one (state to local match versus one to one).