Don't graduate or work outside Florida? Pay back Bright Futures, bill says

Proposed bill would require scholarship recipients to reimburse state


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A bill filed Wednesday in the Florida House of Representatives that would require future recipients of Bright Futures Scholarships to reimburse the state if they do not graduate or if they go to work outside of Florida.

"It seems a little crazy to think they would make us stay in Florida just because I took money to try to help me with school," said University of North Florida student Jake Kasper, who has Bright Futures.

"There could be a lot of jobs in other states," said Florida State College at Jacksonville student Sarah Mcaulay. "I don't necessarily want to stay in Florida my whole life. Yeah, it would restrict me a lot."

"You do what you had to do and that was never a part of the requirement that you had to graduate," added FSCJ student Hayden Rodgers.

The bill would take effect with students who receive their initial Bright Futures Scholarships during the 2014-15 academic year. It says that Bright Futures would serve as an incentive for students to remain and work in the state after graduation.

The bill, filed by Rep. Jimmie Smith, a Republican from Inverness, would require recipients of the scholarships to submit information each year about proof of residence and employment in Florida.

UNF says it has students every day asking about their Florida Bright Futures scholarship, and that there are other scholarships that exist already where students have to pay back funds if they do not graduate.

"We have scholarships with different criteria," said Anissa Agne, UNF director of student financial aid. "There are some that do have certain requirements attached to it."

The bill says student who receive an award but do not graduate or complete the program for which the award was received or no longer reside in the state after graduation or program completion must reimburse the state for the amount of the award received or a prorated portion thereof.

The state Department of Education would come up with enforcement if money is not reimbursed. The bill includes some exceptions, such as for Bright Futures recipients who go on active duty in the military. They would be considered employed in Florida, regardless of where they are located.

"Requiring a commitment of scholarship recipients to complete their degree is reasonable considering that the state is diverting money from other potentially worthy students," Rep. Lake Ray said in a statement. "I look forward to watching possible changes in the bill as it moves through the process."