Florida lawmaker files bill that would cut tuition aid for degrees that don't 'lead to jobs'

Under a bill filed Tuesday in the Florida legislature, state financial aid for colleges would be based on whether a student's course of study is likely to result in a job after graduation. 

The bill, filed by Republican senator Dennis Baxley from Ocala, would require state education officials to approve a list of degree programs that lead directly to employment. The list would then be updated annually. Students in programs that are not included on the list would receive less aid-- a maximum of 60 credit hours instead of the 120 hours typically required to earn a Bachelor's degree. 

Republican lawmakers are arguing that degrees come with different values and should not be funded equally by taxpayers. 

In a news release out Tuesday, Senate President Wilton Simpson said "All too often the debate surrounding higher education focuses on the cost to the student, in terms of tuition and fees, but never the cost to the taxpayer or the actual value to the student. The reality is a degree does not guarantee a job. This legislation rebalances state financial aid programs to cover the cost of tuition and fees for general education requirements and then for targeted programs that we know will lead to jobs in our communities." 

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What's more, the Senate bill would reduce the number of credit hours that can be funded by the Bright Futures program by the number of credit hours a student earns while in high school. 

The proposed legislation would add new eligibility options for students who earn an associate degree through dual enrollment or an Advanced Placement diploma. It would also allow unused Bright Futures credit hours to go toward graduate studies as long as the program is included on the state's approved list. 

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Finally, the legislation would create two grant programs: one expanding benefits for students eligible for Pell grants, and the other covering tuition for returning students without a high school diploma. 

Should the already-controversial bill advance in the state legislature, students and colleges can expect to hear a lot more about how the state plans to help fund education in the weeks and months to come.