Florida's incoming Senate President Joe Negron is laying the groundwork to revamp the state's Bright Futures scholarships program, which is funded by the state lottery.
He says the goal is to restore 100 percent of the funding for the state's top performing high school students. These students must earn at least 1290 on their SAT and perform 100 hours of community service. The program now pays, on average, about $2000 per student per year.
"Because I'm going to be making higher education a priority and student access, that's a goal that we're going to push for,” said Negron. “To revisit Bright Futures and to make sure that it is a premier program to help our best students stay in Florida."
Over the past few years, lawmakers have raised the qualifying standards for Bright Futures and made cuts to the program.
At its peak in 2008, 39 percent of Florida's high school graduates qualified for a scholarship. That number dropped to 20 percent during the 2015-16 school year.
Negron says he wants Florida's universities to compete with elite state schools like the University of North Carolina.
That's another reason the Republican lawmaker says he will push to restore full funding to the scholarship program.
"I talked to a guidance counselor at a high school and he told me that in his career, the single most powerful motivator for students to do well in school was the Bright Futures Scholarship because it put an actual opportunity in the student's vision of what they could achieve."
The program was created in 1997 to encourage top performing Florida high school graduates to stay in the state when choosing a college.