[Opinion] The new Bright Futures bill is an education disaster in the making

A+new+bill+in+the+Florida+legislature+would+tinker+with+Bright+Futures+and+limit+what+majors+scholarship-receiving+students+would+be+able+to+study.+Graphic+by+Hannah+Kang

A new bill in the Florida legislature would tinker with Bright Futures and limit what majors scholarship-receiving students would be able to study. Graphic by Hannah Kang

Logan Rubenstein

 

Republican state legislators have set their targets on Bright Futures and are proposing legislation that would gut the program as we currently know it. 

Senate Bill 86, sponsored by Florida Republican State Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), would limit the majors that Bright Futures’ scholarship aid could apply to. It can further reduce scholarship aid to cover only two years (originally four years) and impact current high school students taking advanced placement or dual enrollment courses. 

Under the current Bright Futures system, Florida high school students with at least a 3.5 GPA, 1330 SAT score and 100 service hours are eligible for the scholarship and can receive 75 to 100 percent of their college tuition covered for a public state university. Bright Futures gives a real shot to low-income students to earn a college education and has been a staple in Florida education since 1997.

This bill is a uniquely terrible proposal and could prevent thousands of high school students in Florida from going to college. The 29-page bill does many things, but above all, it intends to reduce the cost of the Bright Futures program in the state of Florida. One of the main proposals regards limiting scholarship aid to only majors that “lead directly to employment.”

The bill would enact the Florida Board of Governors and State Board of Education to draft a yearly list regarding which degree programs students would be able to use Bright Futures aid on. It would be based on national, state and regional industry demand. Non-approved majors would have their credit hours slashed in half to cover only two years, instead of four.

Republican lawmakers fail to recognize that the Bright Futures program is funded through the Florida Lottery, not by taxpayers. Efforts to reduce the cost of the program are unnecessary, especially since Bright Futures plays an immense role in keeping Florida’s talent in the state.

Regardless, both the Republican Speaker of the House and President of the Senate have signaled their support for the bill. If this bill goes into law, Florida Republicans will have passed a self-inflicting wound on the state. Not only does the Bright Futures program work well currently, but the bill creates more issues than it solves. 

Students currently enrolled in a major not covered by Bright Futures would be put into a disastrous situation. They would be forced to pay for the remainder of their college on their own or have to completely change their major to one that’s approved.

Students should not have to make this decision at all, instead, they should have the freedom to pursue their own career without paying thousands in student loans.

The state of Florida should not inflict its will on which majors students can take. If passed, college and high school students would be forced to jump through even more hurdles to further their education. College is already extremely difficult, and deciding which major to take today is not an easy choice. Florida’s lawmakers should not be in the business of limiting which majors Bright Futures students can take.

There are thousands of current high school students scared about what this legislation will mean for their future, and they’re starting action. Mere days after the bill was filed, students got to work setting up websites, petitions and bill analyses on the legislation. As of March 10, the petition already has 90,00 signatures. 

The message is loud and clear. Limiting Bright Futures will have detrimental effects on Florida’s students and is completely unnecessary.