JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday morning signed a bill that will allow students seeking a Bright Futures scholarship to use a paid job to meet service requirements.
Before, students had to volunteer for up to 100 hours to qualify for the scholarship and get tuition at state colleges and universities.
DeSantis said 120,000 students qualified for the scholarship this year and he hopes the law change will increase that number.
“Not every student has the luxury of being able to just do volunteer hours. I mean, we have students who come from lower-income families who need to work to be able to help support their families, and they should not be denied the opportunity to qualify for a scholarship just because their socioeconomic background makes it more difficult to be able to do this type of volunteer work,” DeSantis said.
House Bill 461 also allows students who qualify for the Medallion Scholarship under the Bright Futures program to get 100% of tuition paid for at state colleges. That’s up from 75%.
It’s a bill that had bipartisan support, including from Rep. Angie Nixon, D-Jacksonville, who was a co-sponsor of the House bill.
“It’s really about not just, you know, gaining volunteer experience, but just work ethic in general. And so if students have to get jobs now, that should definitely count towards them. Because Bright Futures usually, that really impacts kids from low-income areas,” said Nixon, who received money from the Bright Futures scholarship.
Nixon said that while she supports the change, she hopes that those who can still volunteer, will.
“Because it’s all about giving back to our communities,” she said. “However, I just know that in this day and age right now, again, we are in an economic crisis here in our country, particularly within the state of Florida. And so I do understand that there are some students that just don’t have the opportunity and means to just volunteer because they have to work to help support their families.”
But Nixon wants the state to do more.
“Honestly, I feel as though access to state colleges and universities should be free,” Nixon said. “I feel that is only going to help our overall society and community as a whole. And so whatever we can do to make college more accessible, and to ensure that the cost is affordable for all, I feel that we should do it.”
The Bright Futures program still has grade point average and other academic requirements that won’t change under the bill.
For more information about the scholarship, visit the state’s website.