Senate Bill 86 will drastically change the successful Bright Futures scholarship program, which has enabled countless Floridians to attend college. The proposed changes would create a list of programs that “do not lead directly to employment.” Anyone studying a program on this list would receive less funding.
Is Florida really trying to tell students what they should study? This isn’t Cuba or Venezuela, students should have freedom and choices.
The bill’s author, Senator Baxley (R-Ocala) said that he was trying “to bring the world of education and the real world closer together.” The way to do this is not to restrict what college students can study. This bill contradicts basic Republican values, with the free market taking the sidelines while the government gets to control which industries get more or less labor. Baxley’s bill mirrors policies implemented in socialist states; diametrically opposing the values of a free society such as our own.
He even said, “What I do is kill bills and find ways to get government out of the way.” But SB-86 doesn’t seem like it’s trying to get the government out of the way, it sounds like Baxley is trying to control what students want to study. For a proponent of small government and less regulation, doesn’t it sound hypocritical?
Furthermore, just because a student’s program isn’t on the list, doesn’t mean that their line of study won’t lead to success. There are many career paths regardless of majors, including attending postgraduate school.
Baxley states that some majors land students in mountains of debt, but isn’t that why the Bright Futures scholarship is so essential? Bright Futures allows students to study their passion, contributing to society in whatever they are good at. People who follow their passions are more likely to be successful then those who are pushed into certain career pathways. The state should not dictate what these students want to pursue. They tell us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, but they take away our boots, and leave us in the mud.
Senator Baxley also said that his bill would save Florida taxpayers millions of dollars by not funding majors that don’t “lead directly to employment.” While it is true the cost of the Bright Futures scholarship has risen since its inception, all of the money used for Bright Futures scholarships comes from the Florida Lottery, which was created for the sole purpose of funding education in this state. By modifying this scholarship and restricting who gets their college tuition paid for, Baxley isn’t saving taxpayers millions of dollars, he is depriving hundreds of thousands of students of their Bright Futures and opportunities.
Education should not be a partisan issue. Protecting the freedoms for students, in both lower and higher education is something that we as constituents should tell our politicians to support.
Thomas Truong, Heesu Seo, and Shaheer Ali are part of Save Bright Futures a group formed to oppose SB-86. For information visit https://www.savebrightfutures.org/