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Senate higher ed changes on fast track

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With relatively little discussion, a Senate education budget panel Wednesday unanimously approved university-system changes that are a top priority of Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

The bill (SB 4), filed by Senate Higher Education Appropriations Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, would make a series of changes, including increasing Bright Futures scholarships.

For example, the bill would make permanent an expansion of Bright Futures scholarships to cover full tuition and fees for “academic scholars,” the highest level of the program.

It also would increase scholarship coverage for Bright Futures “medallion scholars” in state universities from the current $77 per credit hour to $159, or roughly 75 percent of the cost of tuition and fees.

The vote Wednesday by the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee sends the bill to the full Appropriations Committee.

The 2018 legislative session starts in January.