Bright Futures proposal to see changes
Dennis Baxley. Image via Colin Hackley.

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“Our concern is, are there degrees that do not lead to jobs."

Under pressure that has included a student-led opposition campaign, lawmakers are expected to overhaul a controversial Senate proposal that would tie Bright Futures scholarships to a list of job-creating degrees.

The measure (SB 86) was tabled last week before it was set to be considered by the Senate Education Committee. Sponsor Sen. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican, told reporters at the time that he was receiving “a lot of different inputs” on the proposal, which he said left him wanting to “hit the brakes.”

Under the bill as it was filed initially, state college and university students would not be eligible for Bright Futures scholarships if they enrolled in degree programs not on lists of “approved” programs. Students who had not chosen degree programs would be eligible to have 60 hours of coursework covered by the popular scholarship program.

But the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday is expected to consider an amendment that would make significant changes to the bill. Under the amendment filed by Baxley, Bright Futures scholarships would be “reduced,” not nixed, for students who don’t choose an academic discipline deemed promising for job prospects.

Baxley sent a letter to members of the committee Monday outlining some of the changes.

“Rather than creating a list of degrees that lead to jobs, the bill creates a list of degrees that DO NOT lead to jobs. Students who select a degree or program of study that the BOG has determined will not lead to a job will receive a reduced (not eliminated) scholarship amount,” Baxley wrote, referring to the state university system’s Board of Governors.

The amended plan would require the Board of Governors, the State Board of Education and the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida to maintain such lists. The change tying Bright Futures eligibility to the lists would go into effect during the 2023-2024 academic year, which is one year later than the original plan proposed. It would also apply to the state’s Benacquisto Scholarship program, which is for National Merit scholars.

The amendment would also require the Board of Governors to develop an online dashboard featuring data on graduates of various fields of study. The dashboard would have to include information such as median salary after graduation, average student loan debt and debt-to-income ratio.

“My hope is that the research will show that all, or most degrees our institutions of higher learning are offering DO lead to jobs. But if there are degrees out there that don’t, I believe we have a moral obligation to let the student know,” Baxley wrote to the committee.

If adopted, Baxley’s amendment would keep some features of the original proposal. One such provision would change the current tiered structure of providing Bright Futures aid at either 75% or 100% of tuition and fees to tying scholarship levels to the amount appropriated in the state budget.

That part of the bill drew ire from students behind the group Save Bright Futures, which created a website and started a petition in opposition to the Senate measure.

“There’s so much up in the air about how much students are receiving per scholarship. So, even if you are approved, even if you work hard to get the scholarship … they don’t guarantee a certain percentage of your tuition,” Kaylee Duong, an Orlando high school student who is part of the group, told The News Service of Florida in an interview last week.

The amendment modifies part of the original bill that would reduce the number of credit hours Bright Futures recipients would be eligible for if they earned college credits through an “acceleration mechanism,” like AP or International Baccalaureate classes in high school.

Baxley wrote in his letter to the Senate Education Committee that the provision would remain, but “the amendment further specifies the deduction only if the credit is accepted by the institution and applies to a career program requirements, or to general education courses.”

Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican, has endorsed the bill and told reporters last week that the “theme” of the measure would remain even with changes.

“Our concern is, are there degrees that do not lead to jobs. And so, we’re still going to be looking to scale back the Bright Futures portion of that opportunity if it does not lead to a job,” Simpson said.

Meanwhile, a House version of Baxley’s bill has not been filed.

House Minority Co-Leader Evan Jenne, a Dania Beach Democrat, criticized the proposal as “an awful idea,” but told reporters during a media availability Monday “you always have to be prepared for any bill to get traction in the House.”

“I think it’s one that may have a little bit more of a difficult time over here than in the Senate,” Jenne said.

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Republished with permission of The News Service of Florida.

Wire Services


5 comments

  • Michelle Rhein

    March 15, 2021 at 6:31 pm

    All of baxley’s amendments to the bill are a joke. He doesn’t rally change a thing.
    Basically putting majors on banned list and they won’t get bright futures scholarships if they pick a major on the banned list. Please note his own major of sociology is on the list but yet look ! He does have a job. This is more government control over Floridians. Leave bright futures alone!

  • Bruce Cotton

    March 16, 2021 at 1:18 am

    I remember a time when Republicans wanted less regulation, not more on more aspects of our lives. These kids work their butts off to earn a BF scholarship and the state should have diddly squat to say about how they use it. Glad I’m NOT a republican anymore.

    Seems like this session they are giving away in state tuition to lure in the best and brightest from out of state grandchildren of FL residents and limiting our own best and brightest, forcing them out of state…what’s up with that??

  • KSonn

    March 16, 2021 at 8:32 am

    Hey, call me crazy, but aren’t students who receive Bright Futures scholarships the kids who have worked their butts off in school and graduated high school having taken tough classes and completed 100 hours of community service to qualify for the program? And aren’t these same students highly likely to work hard once they get to college, subsequently being desirable to employers after college REGARDLESS of their major? And aren’t we still in a free society where we have choice to decide what career suits us? Is their data showing a large amount of these students are in unemployment after college? Where is the data that proves this is not working? Sounds to me like someone is getting greedy for a piece of that cash instead of giving it to students who worked hard for it. Shameful.

  • Suzanne Citere

    March 16, 2021 at 10:47 am

    Really Florida GOP? I thought the party was all about “school choice”? Telling kids what they can major in doesn’t feel very “school choice-y” to me.

  • Sally-Ann Mikati

    March 16, 2021 at 11:07 am

    Please do not penalize the academically talented and science oriented. We complain of being behind …. this for the sake of bringing in more funds diminishes the importance of our students ability and hard work. Takes away from their credibility and need for our public support. In the long run out years ahead it takes away from the American education in science and math and academic excellence since our talented who should be given the opportunity through financial support may be detoured away from leadership and innovation.

Comments are closed.


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