TAMPA, Fla. - High school students and Florida legislators are at odds over a new proposal that would cut funding to the Bright Futures program. For years, it’s provided scholarships to eligible students, but lawmakers say the pandemic is straining the state’s budget.
A push to help Florida's struggling economy has some students concerned it'll hurt their future.
"Education isn't just about improving the economy, it's about improving society and academia, as a whole," high school junior Thomas Truong said.
It's why Truong is calling on lawmakers to kill Senate Bill 86. If passed, the controversial legislation would cut funding to the Bright Future's scholarship program, putting limits on which courses would be paid for as well as restricting degree options.
"It just feels so unfair. You've put in all this hard work through your 4 years of high school and suddenly you have the rug pulled right out from under you," college freshman Ronin Lupien said.
The Bright Futures program -- which started in 1997 and is funded by the Florida Lottery -- offers college scholarships to eligible high school students based on their GPA and SAT scores. Under the proposal, scholarships would not be paid out to students if state officials determine their degree doesn't "lead directly to employment."
They are limitations Truong is now fighting. He and his classmate have since launched SaveBrightFutures.org, which is an online campaign advocating against the proposed cuts. So far, their petition on Change.org has received more than 78,000 signatures.
The mounting pressure forced lawmakers to cancel Tuesday's scheduled hearing about the bill.
"The fact that it's being postponed means a lot of the Senate leaders are reconsidering and it could mean trouble for the bill," Truong said.
The bill's sponsor Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) told the News Service of Florida he's taking time to hear input.
"I thought we should hit the brakes and check through some of this," Baxley said. "There’s no useless degrees. But there should be a way to wire hire-ability into this."