State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith introduced sweeping legislation to expand access to the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship program. The “Restore Our Bright Futures Act” (HB 489), dramatically overhauls the 20-year-old scholarship award to reinstate the same 2010-2011 academic year standards which yielded the highest number of student award recipients in the program’s history.
“The bipartisan work already happening in the Florida Senate to improve the Bright Futures scholarship should be applauded,” Smith said in a statement. “I urge my House colleagues to join me in working together to strengthen and expand Bright Futures, which has become out-of-reach for too many– especially for black, Latino and low-income students.”
Also included– expansion of Bright Futures to include coverage for summer courses, $200-$300 for textbooks and college-related expenses, and the reinstatement of the 100% FL Academic Scholars and 75% FL Medallion Scholars tuition awards, previously phased out by Republican leaders. Senator Victor Torres will be filing companion legislation in the Senate later this week.
For years, the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship program has seen massive drop-offs in the number and percentage of Florida High School graduates who qualified for the award as the result of newer, more restrictive eligibility standards.“Starting in 2010, Republicans leaders hiked standards which slashed the number of Bright Futures recipients in half and shut out a disproportionate number of black and Latino students from the program. We have seen enough cuts to higher education in this legislature. The time in now to reinvest and expand the Bright Futures scholarship to make good on Florida’s commitment to affordable college for everyone.” said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.
Based on the most recent data, last year only 24,677 new Bright Futures disbursements were awarded, compared with 53,800 awards just five years earlier. The Florida Senate has already taken steps this year to expand the Bright Futures award through SB 2– legislation sponsored by Senator Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) and backed by Senate President Joe Negron (R-Palm City).
A 2003 graduate of the University of Central Florida, Rep. Smith himself used the FL Medallion Scholars Award to help pay for tuition during his time as a student. He represents House District 49 in the Florida House of Representatives, which includes the University of Central Florida, Valencia College, Barry University, Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, and Full Sail University. Rep. Smith currently serves on the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee and House Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee.