The future could get a little brighter for some Florida college students. There’s a growing consensus to increase awards for some of the state’s highest academic performers. Legislative and state leaders seem to be in agreement when it comes to lowering the cost of higher ed.
Cody Taggert majors in Economics at Florida State University. He’s a junior and he pays for school largely through Florida’s Bright Future’s tuition scholarship, along with a pre-paid scholarship. Between the two—he doesn’t have any student loans. He says he’s lucky.
“It’s helped me with school because I don’t have debt at all, which is something other students aren’t able to go through, or have.”
Taggart says he wants to see plans to help those others students cut down on their overall debt load. Even with a myriad of fee waivers, scholarships and grants—many Florida students are still leaving college with thousands of dollars in loans.
“A lot of people I know do have a sizeable debt even with friends in Family. So if the legislature could tackle opening up more money for education or Help for those students who need it and want to go to college ….that would be something that would be nice to have happen.”
Student loan debt it’s having a big impact on the economy. According to one study, students are delaying major purchases like a home, or car. And a whopping 73 percent of those surveyed say they’ve delayed saving for retirement.
Help could be on the way. Governor Rick Scott and Senate President Joe Negron have introduced similar yet different plans to bring down school costs and help students accelerate their graduation. The Senate’s ideas are now in what the chamber is calling the Higher Education Affordability Act. The plan would give students who earn the top tier Bright Futures scholarship a full ride along with a 300 dollar textbook stipend. That award would also cover summer courses, and other state-based financial aid programs would be increased. Scott’s plan would allow all levels of bright futures scholarships to cover summer tuition. The Governor wants textbooks to be tax free, and he’s also calling for tuition and fee freezes.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to provide a high quality education at a price our students can afford and their parents can afford," Scott said shortly after unveiling his higher education plan.
Such plans, says House Speaker Richard Corcoran, are overdue. In an interview with the Florida Channel, Corcoran says he’s excited by what he sees coming from the Governor and the Senate. And he’s endorsing another idea: block tuition for students.
“If you want to take 15 credit hours, that’ll cost you the same as 12 credit hours. So now kids are saying ‘I can take 15 credit hours for the same as 12’. They graduate sooner they’re out in the marketplace sooner, these are all great ideas. The governor is talking about capping fees—these are all great ideas and I think they’ll find a receptive audience in the House," Corcoran says.
Now with lawmakers largely in agreement on policy, they’ll have to figure out funding their plans.