A bill to permanently expand the state’s Bright Futures Scholarship Program passed through a key Senate committee on Thursday, receiving unanimous support from nine senators.
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, 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.
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.
Galvano said Thursday he hoped the bill would lighten the heavy load of financial burdens for Florida students and families.
“Financial security enables students to put their focus where it should be, on their academic success and graduating on time,” Galvano said. “A permanent expansion of Bright Futures and flexible tuition policies, combined with continued investments in need-based student financial aid will make on-time graduation much more attainable for students across our state.”
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 bill is a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron, who plans on using his two years as chamber head to pump extra funding into the state’s college and university system.
Earlier this week, Negron met with college students around the state. Negron said they were “excited” about the prospect of the expansion. The expansion could prove beneficial to students, but also to Negron, who hopes to cement his name as a champion for higher education in Florida.
“Florida has some of the brightest students in the nation,” Negron said. “Senate Bill 4 sends a strong message that if students work hard to earn the privilege to attend one of our great state colleges or universities, financial insecurities will not stand in the way of their dream of pursuing a higher education.”
The proposal now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for approval next month.
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