TAMPA (WFLA) – After a bill to change the Bright Futures scholarship program was delayed due to public pressure, it is now back on the legislative agenda in Tallahassee.
The bill would reduce funding for Bright Futures scholars who completed college coursework in high school, as well as dictate which programs are eligible for Bright Futures scholarship funds.
That doesn’t sit well with Julia Paul, who says her daughter attends the University of Florida on a Bright Futures scholarship after graduating from the International Baccalaureate program from Lake Wales High School.
“She entered college with almost two years of credit under her belt,” said Paul. “Because of the I-B program, she is only two classes away as a sophomore from earning her first degree and in my eyes, somebody who graduates from the University of Florida with a dual major is going to be marketable in the future,” Paul said.
The bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Dennis Baxley of Ocala, isn’t so sure.
Baxley’s bill mandates that by the end of this year, the Board of Governors and the State Board of Education approve a list of certificate and degree programs “which lead directly to employment.” This requirement would be for both undergraduate and graduate degrees.
State Sen. Janet Cruz of Tampa says that effectively has the government picking winners and losers.
“Who are we, honestly, to take someone’s choice in a career path and force them into a career based on what we will reimburse the tuition,” said State Sen. Janet Cruz. “That’s just unfair and ridiculous.”
Paul says it’s the portion of the bill that strips funding from students like her daughter that makes her really disappointed.
“Beginning with students initially funded in the 2022-2023 academic year, the maximum number of credit hours which can be awarded must be reduced by the number of postsecondary credit hours the student has earned from articulated acceleration mechanisms,” according to the bill.
Several groups have popped up in opposition to this bill, which was tabled from its first scheduled hearing in front of committee earlier this week.