A bill to permanently expand Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship Program successfully made its way through its third and final committee stop Wednesday, inching the proposal one step closer to becoming law in the Sunshine State.
Senators from the Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the measure in Tallahassee. Passing through three committee stops, the bill now heads to the Senate floor for approval.
SB 4, spearheaded by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, would expand the amount of financial aid and scholarship money Florida students could receive under the program, which began in 1997 and is expected to serve nearly 100,000 students this year.
“I am pleased to see this legislation advance to the Senate Floor and look forward to seeing it pass early in the 2018 Legislative Session,” said President Negron. “Students and families deserve certainty when planning for their financial investment in a college or university education. This legislation ensures the permanent expansion of Bright Futures so students can count on the full value of the scholarships they worked hard to earn.”
Galvano’s proposal would secure full funding for the Academic Scholar award, the top tier of scholarships in the program. Receiving the top award for the scholarship requires students to have at least a 3.5 GPA as well as a score of 1290 on the SAT or a 29 on the ACT.
At least 41,000 students qualified for the top scholarship tier this year.
Funding would also be reinstated for the Bright Futures Medallion Scholar award, which awards 75 percent of tuition and fees for the fall and spring semesters.
A Florida Academic Scholar (FAS) or Florida Medallion Scholar (FMS) may receive funding for up to five years from high school graduation for a maximum of 120 semester hours (or equivalent) toward the completion of a certificate or a first baccalaureate degree.
The legislation would also expand the Benacquisto Scholarship awards, which provide the full cost of attendance, to recruit out-of-state National Merit Scholar award winners.
Galvano said the expansion of the program would be especially helpful to ensure Florida college students graduate in a timely manner and would help lighten their financial loads.
“As we have worked on this legislation over the last two years and listened to students from across the state, it is clear that the availability of summer funding for Bright Futures plays a key role in the ability of our students to graduate on-time,” said Galvano.
The legislation has been a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who has made higher education his top priority during his time as Senate President.
Negron’s support of the bill -- and Galvano’s sponsorship -- suggest the legislation has a very strong chance of passing in that chamber.
“Students and families deserve certainty when planning for their financial investment in a college or university education,” Negron said. “This legislation ensures the permanent expansion of Bright Futures so students can count on the full value of the scholarships they worked hard to earn.”
The 2018 legislative session begins next month.