Bright Futures book stipend on budget chopping block

“We're subsidizing textbook companies..."

Book stipends provided by the Bright Futures Scholarship program are under the gun as part of the House and Senate budget proposals.

Students currently receive $600 a year for textbooks under the merit-based scholarship. This year, however, both Chambers are in lockstep on the cuts.

“We’re subsidizing textbook companies by just giving them straight dollars that goes from the student directly to the publishers for textbooks that many people know are highly overpriced,” said Rep. Rene Placensia.

“We believe that the best thing to do, especially the way education is moving into a more digital space, is to provide those digital textbooks at a much higher reduced price for those students.”

Standing alongside Sen. Doug Broxson, Placensia said the move is part of a larger plan to lower textbook costs by nudging students into the less expensive digital textbook arena.

Broxson, meanwhile, noted that the scholarship continually accepts more students each year.

“It’s not necessarily that we’re just taking something away without putting something in for those students,” Placensia added.

The roughly $37 million slash comes as Florida Republicans reexamine the nearly 20-year-old program.

Earlier in 2021 Legislative Session, Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley championed legislation that would’ve dramatically overhauled the program.

Initially, the bill (SB 86) aimed to steer students toward degrees with more promising job prospects by denying or reducing Bright Futures 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.

The bill, which awaits House consideration, additionally ropes scholarship funding to the state budget rather than the previously guaranteed 75% to 100% tuition and fee benefit.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


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