Budget conference: Chambers agree to $2.15M for Benacquisto Scholarship Program
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The money helps National Merit Scholars attend in-state schools.

It looks like the Benacquisto Scholarship Program has made the grade with appropriations leaders in the Legislature.

The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Education Appropriations Committee both included $2,153,995 from general revenue in the education silo for the program. That will fund scholarships for National Merit Scholars and covers attendance costs at in-state postsecondary institutions that are not covered by Bright Futures or the National Merit Scholar program itself.

The scholarship was included in legislation (SB 2500) approved Feb. 16 in a 102-14 vote in the House and then with a unanimous 36-0 vote in the Senate the next day.

To be eligible for the scholarship program, students named as National Merit Scholars in 2021 must be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours in the 2021-22 academic term at a Florida institution and must live in Florida. This is the last year the program will be available to non-Florida residents who live in Florida while attending school.

Beyond those receiving the national honor, the scholarships are also available to National Merit Corporate-Sponsored and College-Sponsored Scholars. Nine Florida institutions participate in the scholarship program, including Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University, Florida State University, New College of Florida, the University of Central Florida, the University of Florida, the University of Miami and the University of South Florida. To receive the college-sponsored scholarships, students must list one of these institutions as a first choice and must attend the institution.

Students must maintain a 3.0 grade point average as of the end of the spring semester to continue in the program from that point on.

Originally known at the National Merit Award scholarship, the program in 2019 was renamed for then-Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, a supporter of the scholarship.

The latest budget offers show the chambers also agreeing to a $582,202 increase to the Minority Teacher Scholarship Program. There’s also $2,479,236 for enrollment growth for the Children and Spouses of Deceased/Disabled Veterans Scholarships.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]



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