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Home / US / Florida lawmakers reversed the cuts and changes of college scholarships under strong opposition from students and parents

Florida lawmakers reversed the cuts and changes of college scholarships under strong opposition from students and parents



After strong opposition from students and parents, Florida lawmakers abandoned most of their plans to destroy the beloved higher education scholarship program.

In 2020, more than 110,000 college students received merit-based scholarships, but this number may be greatly reduced after Republican Senator Dennis Baxley introduced Senate Bill 86. His proposal states that only students who enter fields that he believes will generate high returns can receive the award for paid work, which pays 75% to 100% of the state tuition of public and private universities.

If passed, SB 86 will shut out students who want to study history, art or English, but they don’t have the money to obtain scholarships that have been part of the University of Florida’s higher education system since the 1

990s. Students feel that they will be forced to choose between scholarships and their academic interests.

Alexandro Valdez, a 16-year-old high school student, said: “This is really disastrous.” “A politician said that my dream is not worth the investment.”

The merit-based scholarship will use money from the state lottery, and will be awarded to students with excellent performance based on a combination of high school scores, standardized test scores, volunteer time, and GPA threshold. Since 1997, the state has distributed $6.8 billion in tuition to more than 2.8 million students. But the proposed reductions are not limited to professional restrictions-SB 86 will also reduce aid to students who have already attended college or advanced courses in high school, and will reduce the rewards for students who earn certain other degrees. scholarship.

Valdez was not alone in his anger. Students, parents, art groups and other organizations have stated that SB 86 would undermine the plan, and in some cases, the plan cannot provide educational opportunities for the best students in the state. The students in the current program say that they are like blind people and are planning to plan the entire middle school education around the scholarship for high school students.

Valdez said: “If our education is in trouble, our thoughts and investment should be taken into account.”

He started with a group of teenagers from Orlando and Tallahassee. They created a website called “Save Bright Futures” which provides information about what is happening and how to help. They annotated the bill to make it available to a wider audience, raised disagreements, and encouraged compatriots in Florida to sign petitions, call representatives, and participate in Senate hearings and testify.

Kaylee Duong, 18, who helped organize the Save Bright Futures movement, said the proposed changes put her in a difficult position. Duong is a senior and is currently trying to decide where to go to university. Both of her brothers were scholarship recipients, and when she was in junior high and high school, her family made sure that she had all the requirements in place so that she could also get it. SB 86 made Duong more seriously consider out-of-state universities, where she believes that financial aid there may be more stable.

She said: “It’s safe to say that if this doesn’t happen, it will be a much easier choice. I might join the state senator.” Being unbeaten in Duong is one of Bright Futures’ key points, and it can prevent Brain drain and keep the brightest students in the state at home.

One of Duong’s organizers, Lorenzo Urayan, who wants to go to art school, is increasingly worried that unless he studies what state legislators consider more “practical” in the proposed reform, he will not be able to afford university tuition.

“I think STEM and the humanities are both important,” said 17-year-old Urayan. “Politicians decide what to learn from is unfair.”

Duong and Urayan were not angry. In a letter to state senators in March, Baxley announced the withdrawal of some of the most controversial changes. He said: “We have awakened a giant.”

On March 18, high school students Heesu Seo, Thomas Truong, Alexandro Valdez, and Shaheer Ali lobbied at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, where they lobbied lawmakers to save the Bright Futures scholarship.Image courtesy of Shaheer Ali

Imperfect goods

Although Baxley’s withdrawal of his revision was a major victory for students struggling for scholarships, supporters and other lawmakers said the struggle is still going on.

Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani said: “This is still not a good bill.” She was awarded a scholarship from the Bright Futures Foundation when she was in college.

Some members of the House of Representatives are now proposing to cut textbook allowances in scholarships, which would save $37 million.

Eskamani said: “There are no major changes yet, but students who need the textbook allowance should have this opportunity.”

The program itself is not perfect. Black students account for more than 21% of the total number of K-12 students in Florida, but only 6% of the recipients of Bright Futures are black. Although white students compromised 36% of the total number of students, they have accounted for more than half of scholarship recipients each year since the program was launched.

Justin Ortagus, director of the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Florida School of Education, said scholars have found that merit-based scholarships provided by the state can often bring money to already disadvantaged students, rather than focusing on improvement. Entrance requirements for poor students.

Ortagus itself is the recipient of the scholarship, he said this does not mean that the merit-based assistance program has not achieved its intended purpose.

He said: “We must be honest with our priorities, and merit-based assistance is not a mechanism for narrowing the equity gap.” Ortagus said that a program like Bright Futures is “meaningful to the country” because its goal is to keep the country at its best. Good and brightest state in order to contribute to the local economy and increase the reputation of local institutions.

Although the plan was not specifically designed to help low-income students, it eventually helped many people, including Ortagus, who grew up with a low income and attended the school where he now teaches. The tuition covers 100% of the tuition.

He suspects that SB 86 will only exacerbate the inequality that has already prevailed in many performance assistance programs.

The students who helped save the scholarship said that they knew it was not perfect, and the experience of successfully lobbying the state assembly to save a bright future gave them the courage to continue fighting for a fairer higher education in Florida.

The 16-year-old Thomas Truong, organizer of Save Bright Futures, said: “Due to SAT requirements, Bright Futures has been disproportionately reducing black and brown payees.” Is more restrictive.”

He said: “We want everyone to receive an education.” Now, he now feels that he can be a spokesperson for achieving this goal.


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