After a turbulent committee process, Sen. Dennis Baxley’s Bright Futures proposal underwent a first reading Wednesday and now awaits a full Senate vote.
The bill (SB 86) is a shell of its former self.
Initially, Baxley aimed to steer students toward degrees with more promising job prospects by denying or reducing scholarships for degree programs deemed less fruitful.
But amid strong backlash from Democrats and students, Baxley removed the provision, no longer requiring the Board of Governors and State Board of Education to create and publish a list of ineligible majors.
The bill now seeks to mandate schools place a student’s account on hold until they receive career readiness training and affirm they’re aware of the financials of their career.
The measure further calls on the Board of Governors to publish data on degree fields including average salaries and student loan debt.
“It’s not a very bright future if you can’t get a career going with the degree you have, so its good to analyze that early and have a total strategy,” Baxley told members Wednesday.
Despite the changes, critics remain firm-footed against one key remaining provision.
As originally drafted, the bill would undo the merit-based scholarship’s 75% or 100% tuition and fee benefit and instead rope the scholarship funding to a number determined within the state budget.
Democratic lawmakers including Sen. Lori Berman suggested the bill may drive students away out of fear the scholarship funding may dry up.
Baxley pushed back, arguing that a student may do so at a loss.
“This is not a contract or an insurance policy or anything like that,” Baxley added.” It’s a program that we do to encourage people to have a successful life and a bright future.”
Democratic Sen. Tina Polsky, meanwhile, withdrew an amendment that would’ve guaranteed scholarship funding for students who begin their education on the scholarship.
Polsky said she hopes the bill will undergo adjustments later in the process.