Legislation to expand Florida’s Bright Future Scholarship Program -- one of Senate President Joe Negron’s top legislative priorities -- passed its first hurdle Monday when the Senate Education Committee gave it the green light.
Republicans in the Florida Senate are looking to permanently boost the Bright Futures program, which offers partial and full scholarships to students who meet specific academic benchmarks in high school.
SB 4, sponsored 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.
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.
“Every student in Florida who qualifies and earns the privilege to attend one of our state universities should have the opportunity to pursue a higher education; however, for many of our students that is an unattainable goal due to financial burdens,” said Galvano. “A college or university education is a significant investment of both time and money, and [this bill] helps students and their families make that investment by planning accordingly.”
Full and partial scholarships aren't the only ways Galvano's legislation would help Florida students.
Need-based scholarships would also increase and include community college students. The bill would also double the state match for private donations to the program.
Galvano's proposal would also create a new Florida Farmworker Student Scholarship for children of migrant families to earn college credentials.
The legislation is a top priority for Negron, who hopes to cement his legacy in Florida politics as a champion of the popular state scholarship program and a helper to needy Florida families.
“As Florida students and their families plan for their investment in a college or university education, they deserve financial security and peace of mind throughout their academic journey,” said Negron. “With these permanent changes in law, we can help alleviate some of those financial concerns.”