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House panel to take up higher ed bill

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A House panel on Monday is scheduled to take up its version of Senate President Joe Negron's higher-education initiative (SB 2), which includes expansion of the Bright Futures merit scholarship program, a mandate for using block tuition at state universities and higher performance standards for state colleges and universities.

The House Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee is slated to hear a similar bill (HB 3), sponsored by Rep. Bryan Avila, R-Hialeah.

The legislation would expand Bright Future awards for the top-performing students, known as "academic scholars," to cover full tuition and fees.

The scholarship now only covers about half the average $200 per credit-hour cost.

The bill would also require the 12 state universities to begin using block tuition by the fall of 2018. Under block tuition, students would pay a flat fee each semester, rather than paying for classes on the current per credit-hour basis.

The bill would also raise performance standards for the 28 state colleges and universities, including measuring university graduation rates on a four-year basis rather than six years.

The subcommittee is also scheduled to take up another bill (HB 1085) that would change the name of Florida Keys Community College to The College of the Florida Keys.