Higher ed aid programs face changes

Lawmakers during this year’s Legislative Session eliminated grants that help students at some private colleges pay tuition and got rid of an annual textbook stipend for Bright Futures scholarship recipients — but stopped short of upending the way the $650 million Bright Futures program is funded.

Sen. Dennis Baxley in February filed a proposal (SB 86) aimed at cutting Bright Futures aid for students in degree fields deemed by higher-education governing boards as unlikely to lead to employment.

The legislation quickly sparked a public outcry led by a group, known as “Save Bright Futures,” made up primarily of prospective college students.

Senators steadily walked back the bill, finally proposing that scholarship funding be tied to the amount of money appropriated to Bright Futures in the state budget. That, however, drew opposition, as critics argued it could threaten funding for the program and compromise a “guarantee” of scholarships covering 75% or 100% of tuition and fees.

While the proposal narrowly passed the Senate, the House didn’t take it up.

“I think that where we share commonality about workforce education is very similar. I think the Senate had taken a very different path than we had taken,” House Speaker Chris Sprowls told reporters last month

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