Florida’s academic scholars might soon be eligible for free tuition at a local university or college thanks to a new proposal being pushed by Republicans in the state Senate, according to the Associated Press.

Sen. Bill Galvano filed a bill last week that would cover 100% of all tuition costs for top performing high school students who attend a university or college in the state. This comes after Senate President Joe Negron said he wants to boost the state’s popular Bright Futures scholarship program.

The Bright Futures scholarship program was created in 1997 and funded through Lottery proceeds. Back then, it paid 100% of tuition costs for academic scholars, spending $429 million a year and providing financial support to 179,000 students attending state universities, state colleges and vocational centers. Scholarship programs such as this are renowned for their ability to fund a college education, leaving the recipient debt free with a degree.

But during the last recession, state legislators scaled back the program. Now, a $217 million Bright Futures program will cover only a little over 100,000 students, with academic scholars at four-year schools receiving only $103 per credit hour—about half of the average tuition cost at the 12 Florida universities.

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Lawmakers also raised the qualifying standards for the program, requiring higher SAT and ACT scores and more community service hours. The end result is that fewer students are qualifying for the program. Last fall, less than 13% of high school graduates were able to receive any scholarship money.

In addition to restoring the Bright Futures scholarships to full tuition and fees for top scholars, Negron also wants to increase need-based financial aid, like the Florida Student Assistance Grant, as well as increase the $3,000 Florida Resident Access Grant program that supports students attending qualified private schools in the state.

“My goal is that any student in Florida, regardless of their financial situation, can attend the university where they have earned admission,” Negron said.

 

image copyright Bill Galvano