Earn Straight A’s in Florida and You Might Get a Free Ride to College
Earning straight A’s in high school has more benefits that getting accepted into a good school and landing scholarships. It can get you a free ride, granted that you live in the state of Florida.
Last week, Florida Senator Bill Galvano introduced a bill into legislation dubbed the “Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act.” It aims to provide greater financial assistance for students which includes the expansion of the merit-based Bright Futures scholarship program, a high reward scholarship that covers the entire cost of tuition and fees. Under Sen. Galvano’s bill, scholarship recipients would get an additional $300 for textbooks and other expenses in the fall and spring semesters in addition to covering full tuition and fees.
“This package of policy enhancements and funding investments will elevate the prominence of our state universities and increase their ability to compete as national destination institutions, while preserving access and increasing affordability for Floridians,” Sen. Galvano, R-Bradenton and chair of the Senate appropriations subcommittee on higher education, said in a news release last week.
The move on the part of the Senator comes at a time when the nation is struggling with a student loan debt burden which is more than $1.3 trillion and the cost of a college education which is continuing to rise. According to the College Board for the 2016/2017 school year the annual average cost of bachelor degree is $9,650 at a public four year-school and $33,480 at a private four-year college. That doesn't take into account the cost of textbooks, which amount to $1200 on average each year. The state of Florida used to pay 100% of tuition under the Bright Futures scholarship program, but this coverage was scaled back during the Great Recession of a few years ago.
In addition to expanding Bright Futures, the act calls for universities to create a so-called “block tuition” policy in which they specify the tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state full-time undergraduate students. Each community college in the state has to execute one or more 2+2 targeted pathway articulation agreements by the end of the 2018/2019 school year. For students who meet certain requirements, these agreements give access to an in-state four-year school and a bachelor’s degree program, and they make universities more accountable for reducing the time and cost of a four-year degree.
Under the act, the state will tighten its graduation rate expectations to four-year rates instead of six-year rates for performance based funding programs. “These bills are key components of a comprehensive higher education agenda that will boost the strength and competitiveness of our state’s higher education system as our primary economic engine to drive vibrant, sustainable economic development and growth in high-paying jobs,” said Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart), who has called for an expansion of Bright Futures. “Florida taxpayers see a return worthy of their investment in our entire PreK-20 system when our top Florida students attend our own universities, complete degree programs on time, and then graduate with job opportunities in high-demand fields needed in our growing communities.”