Florida Senate Proposes Major Changes In Higher EducationBy Emily Marks, UniversityHerald Reporter
On Wednesday, the Florida Senate has announced its plans for changes in higher education in the state. This comes amidst the continuing issue on the cost of universities and colleges.
Local source WJXT reported that the Senate's plans include an expansion of Bright Future scholarships, stronger requirements for students to graduate in four years, block tuition for schools as well as a program to attract quality faculty. The bills, named SB 2 and SB 4, are initiatives by Senate President Joe Negron.
Negron has deemed these bills as "key components of a comprehensive higher education agenda." He believes that these will improve the strength and competitiveness of Florida's system which, in turn, will lead to sustainable economic development and growth in high-paying jobs.
Sen. Bill Galvano, chairman of the Senate budget subcommittee on higher education, will be taking the lead on the legislation. He said that the bills will increase the prominence of state universities as well as enable them to compete as national destination institutions while, at the same time, providing easy access and affordability to local people.
The plan was released one day after Gov. Rick Scott shared his proposals. His focus was more on keeping the costs of higher education down.
According to Florida Trend, Gov. Scott's "Finish in Four, Save More" legislative and budget proposals are aimed at encouraging colleges and universities to make higher education more affordable. He also wants schools to help students get a degree within four years.
It was noted that only 44 percent of undergraduate students at Florida state universities are able to graduate within four years. A majority, 71 percent, of students with four-year degrees graduate within six years.
Gov. Scott's proposals include freezing current fees for both private and state universities, with schools still being allowed to decrease their rates. He also proposed that teaching assistant fees should be cut by 25 percent.
The expansion of Bright Futures will be focused on allowing it to cover summer classes in order to help students complete their education in four years. There is also a proposed tax on college textbooks.