Future Florida College students could lose out on financial aid with new bill

Florida International University – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Felix Mizioznikov

A new piece of legislation was filed by Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) earlier this week that would make major changes to state financial aid apportionments to college students.

Senate bill SB 86 would require grants to be reevaluated on a semester-to-semester basis and control funding for certain study tracks.

Specifics of the Bill  

According to the bill text, the current student financial aid distribution process would be amended to require state financial aid and grants to be reviewed on a term basis creating an eligibility benchmark for certain study tracks. 

In other words, the new bill would limit the amount of financial aid a student is eligible to receive based on their major and could essentially be altered from one semester to the next. The bill would also grant students of certain majors leading “directly to employment” to receive more funding than those deemed not.

Who/What Determines Eligibility 

Under Baxley’s bill, the Board of Governors and State Board of Education would have to annually update an approved list of “career certificate, undergraduate and graduate degree programs that they determine lead directly to employment,” with specific information including programs from independent colleges and universities. 

Any track or major that is not included on the approved list would decrease the amount of funding that students would be eligible to receive for up to 60 credits hours (roughly 20 classes or two full years) until that student is enrolled in a program approved by the board. 

Who does it affect

This news would provide a devastating blow to students who excelled in high school or rely on financial aid for other reasons but choose a track that may not be eligible, pulling funds from students that may need it more than others. 

SB 86 specifically targets students eligible for state merit grants and scholarships such as Bright Futures Scholarship, Florida Academic Scholars, and Florida Medallion Scholars. 

Currently, Bright Futures eligible students can receive upwards of 100% tuition coverage on the high-end or 75% on the low-end, but this bill could change those numbers depending on the major the student chooses.

The bill would not take effect until the 2022-2023 academic year if approved by state legislators.

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