Proposed Bright Futures increases include expansions for thousands of students

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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
October 9, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Florida Governor Rick Scott vetoed a permanent increase in Bright Futures funding, but top lawmakers are back with increases they are hoping the Governor will accept.

Florida’s top Bright Futures recipients are getting a taste of what might become a permanent boost to their scholarships this year.

The payout for the Florida Academic Scholarship is covering 100% of tuition and an additional $300 stipend for books.

“It was a crazy difference for me. It allowed me to pay for my dorm and my meal plan without having to break my wallet,” said FSU student and Academic Scholarship recipient Kayleigh Wingard.

To ensure the estimated 50,000 Academic Scholars don’t lose their financial safeguard, legislative leaders have vowed to make the changes permanent this year.

“We want to make sure that every student that has an opportunity to further their career through education at our great universities and colleges, that they have that opportunity,” said the bill’s cosponsor, State Senator Rob Bradley.

The bill will also expand the second highest scholarship payout, the Medallion Scholarship, which currently covers about 50% of tuition.

If the change is approved, it will cover 75%.

“The money that I get back from Bright Futures just helps me with my rent, it helps me get food, and helps my mom and them sometimes down south. So getting a full 75% would absolutely make a difference for me,” said FSU student and Medallion Scholarship recipient James Milton.

Last session, the Governor vetoed the scholarship increases because other provisions in the bill cut funding for state and community colleges.

Higher Education Advocates say this year, the increases stand alone, hopefully making them attractive to the Governor.

“I see it as a positive thing for universities and for faculty and for colleges as well because they don’t have as many Bright Futures students, but they do have some,” said United Faculty of Florida Executive Director, Marshall Ogletree.

If approved, more than 93,000 college students in the state will be able to breathe a little easier.

The bill also allows Bright Futures to be permanently used for summer classes and includes expansions to the Benacquisto Scholarship Program, the First Generation Matching Grant Program and the Florida Farmworker Student Scholarship Program.

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