The Senate passed a controversial bill Wednesday that would remodel Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship program.
Sen. Dennis Baxley of Marion County is the bill sponsor.
“The goal is to ensure we maximize every dollar the state — and the student — invests in education,” Baxley said. “This legislation creates a framework for informational resources for students and families as they choose the most beneficial major or certificate program for their future.”
Notably, Baxley’s proposal underwent major changes throughout the committee process.
Initially, the bill 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 attest 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.
“Each student should be encouraged to pursue their passion, but if there are degrees that we know do not lead to jobs, we have an obligation to let the student know as they begin to choose their educational path,” Baxley added.
Despite the changes, Democrats on Thursday continued their condemnation on the Senate floor.
“I do appreciate that the sponsor and the leadership in this chamber moved it along and tried to fix some of the biggest problems we saw, but it’s clear there are still problems,” said Democratic Sen. Lori Berman.
Collectively, Democrats lambasted an original provision that would undo the merit-based scholarship’s 75% or 100% tuition and fee benefit.
By design, the bill would instead rope scholarship funding to a number determined within the state budget.
“The future of our students are too important,” Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo said. “Their financial needs are too dire for us to ruin the scholarship program.”
Republicans, meanwhile, pushed back against the narrative. They contend the scholarships have long been connected to the state budget.
Moreover, they reassure that cuts are not on the horizon.
“I just wanted everybody to know that we are funding Bright Futures,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Kelli Stargel.
Baxley’s bill moves next to the House for consideration.
If signed into law, the bill would take effect July 1.