Once More, Florida Legislators Look to Boost Financial Aid in the State
On Wednesday, August 30th, Florida State Senator Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) filed a bill (SB 4) that would expand the amount of financial aid the state of Florida distributes to in-state higher education students.
The bill, known as the Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2018, would require the state of Florida to permanently cover 75 or 100 percent of all tuition costs for qualified students that intend to study at an in-state college or university.
The financial aid program that would cover 100 percent of a student’s tuition costs is known as the Bright Futures Academic Scholarship Program. Meanwhile, the program covering 75 percent of tuition fees is known as the Bright Futures Medallion Scholarship Program.
Together, the two Bright Futures scholarship programs would help roughly 94,000 students in the state of Florida attend a state-college or university either entirely free or at a 75 percent discount. To qualify, Florida residents must either have exceptional academic credentials or have an extreme need for financial aid due to personal hardships.
While the bill was filed by Senator Galvano, it is receiving strong backing from Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart). Senator Negron has made higher education funding a top priority during his time as President of the Florida Senate.
In a press release issued by Negron’s office, Senator Galvano had the following to say: “A college or university education is a significant investment of both time and money. The permanent expansion of Bright Futures Academic and Medallion Scholarships, along with flexible tuition policies for full-time students will incentivize on-time graduation.”
Nearly a decade ago, the Bright Futures Scholarship Program was scaled back by Florida lawmakers due to the Great Recession. Earlier this year, the Florida legislature attempted to pass a bill similar to Galvano’s proposal, but it was ultimately vetoed by Florida Governor Rick Scott.
This academic year, some recipients of the Bright Futures scholarship will be granted 100 percent funding for their tuition and academic fees. However, the scholarship program is good for just this one year because of Scott’s veto.
Galvano’s bill also does a few more things to help the state of Florida when it comes to education policy. First, it would require state institutions to identify internship, certification, and employment opportunities for students through data analysis. Second, the bill would create the World Class Faculty Scholar Program that would assist education institutions in retaining the top academic talent around the world. Third and finally, Senate Bill 4 would incentivize and encourage students to graduate with their bachelor’s degree in four years through various reward programs.
Not surprisingly, education reform has become a top legislative priority for lawmakers throughout the U.S. Coincidentally, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, recently introduced a new bill that would cap federal student loan interest rates at 4 percent.
In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie signed a law that limits how much New Jersey student debtors can borrower in order to reign in the state’s student loan agency. Finally, in Maine, a proposed state law would approve a $40 million bond to be used for student debt relief for Maine student loan borrowers. The bill was tabled until the Legislature reconvenes this month.