Bay County Florida Students Worried About University Under State Bill
PANAMA CITY – Some former and current Bay County students are concerned about legislative changes proposed by lawmakers to the Florida Bright Futures program.
Florida Senate Bill 86 will leave many students with fewer options to attend college, they say.
The proposed changes to the program would require students to view a dashboard after their first year of college that shows the career outlook for their major. This was a change made following the rejection of an earlier version of the bill, which favored students who chose employment-oriented degrees. The earlier version would also have refused or reduced scholarships for those who choose less successful majors.
Another key provision of the bill is that it would waive the tuition fee of 75% or 100% of the merit-based scholarship. The bill would tie scholarships to the state budget.
SB 86 was put on the Senate calendar for a second reading on Wednesday.
So far, the bill has received significant backlash from parents and students across the state.
Bay County Students Speak
Former scholar Jordan McAllister, who graduated from high school in 2012, has spoken out against the changes to the program.
“In my opinion, that takes away from a lot of students the opportunity to get it,” he said. “By the (current) requirement to have a 3.0 (GPA), this made it possible for any student with any kind of dedication and determination to get help for college.”
McAllister added that he doesn’t believe that a student’s major should hamper their chances of getting a scholarship. He said it would discourage some students who might excel in college.
Current requirements for Bright Futures scholarships are a 3.0 GPA, a minimum score of 25 on the ACT, a minimum score of 1210 on the SAT, and 75 hours of service for the Florida Medallion scholarship, which pays 75% of the tuition fee. . The Florida scholarships, which pay 100% of tuition, require a 3.5 GPA, 29 on ACT, 1330 on SAT, and 100 hours of service.
Some current Bay County students have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the potential changes to Bright Futures. Some, including those who will attend colleges outside of Florida, fear that many of their peers will end up with few options.
“I just think it’s wrong because you’re just forcing kids who aren’t STEM motivated into STEM to go to college,” said Sarah Noble, a senior at Mosley High School. “I’m not even staying in Florida and I’m still going to try to fight this as much as I can because it’s not fair to some kids where Bright Futures is the only way to go to college.”
Noble, who will be attending the University of Alabama, added that she hasn’t met anyone who agrees with SB 86.
Noble also said she believed it was unconstitutional for the Legislature to bring forward this bill.
“You take the Florida taxpayer money that is funding these colleges and funding these programs, taking that and saying, ‘This is where your money goes and this is what it pays for,'” said Noble.
Florida faces money problems
In addition to the changes proposed by SB 86, the House has called for the suspension of the $ 600 stipend that Bright Futures top students receive each year. The allowance offsets the costs of the books.
Florida faces a tight budget year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so lawmakers are looking for cost savings. For many families, cutbacks in scholarships and textbooks could hurt those struggling amid the pandemic.
Coleman Rowan, a senior at Mosley who will attend college in Tennessee, said the majority of his peers trying to win the scholarships have some idea of their major. Even so, they are still not 100% sure which direction they want to go.
Rowan said it was not fair for lawmakers to make the move and bar prospective students who might win a scholarship.
“I think the idea that it could potentially discriminate against a group on whatever you want is a bit absurd,” he said.
The intention of the bill was to merge vocational training with college and to help students quickly find employment after graduation.
Guidance counselors are now scrambling to make adjustments should SB 86 be approved. If enacted, it would come into effect on July 1, after many members of the 2021 class chose their college majors.
Karen Parham, guidance counselor at Arnold High School, said the proposed changes to Bright Futures could take a heavy toll.
“A lot of students have this financial need and in order to start looking at eliminating this need from college students, they won’t be able to afford to go to college,” Parham said. “Bright Futures allows students to graduate debt free and I don’t think it would be fair to require students to take out loans for college education.”
Much like Noble and Rowan, Arnold Sr. Darcy Hawes said she couldn’t find any student or teacher who supports SB 86.
Hawes said if lawmakers reduce the number of those eligible for scholarships or cut stipends, high school students will lose motivation to excel.
“I know for me Florida Bright Futures has motivated me since my freshman year,” Hawes said. “I knew I wanted to get 100% (scholarship), so I knew I was going to have to get my community service hours, which made me more involved in my community and it made me reach out. hand.
Hawes said that when she is studying for tests or doing her homework, her main goal is to earn a Bright Futures scholarship.
Councilor Parham said she was also concerned because another option for students would be to apply for financial aid. But if a student’s parents barely earn “$ 5 more than required,” then the student will have to apply for loans.