Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday announced the signing of House Bill 461 (HB 461), expanding the state’s Bright Futures college scholarship program through the amendment of educational and service requirements.
Targeting those that work to help support their families, the bill permits students to substitute work hours for community service.
The top-tier program of Bright Futures holds a requirement to complete 100 hours of community service, a 3.5-grade point average, and an ACT or SAT score of 29. Upon fulfillment, students receive a scholarship that covers their entire tuition and expenses at a state public college or university.
DeSantis expressed concern that current requirements may block students of lower socioeconomic backgrounds, citing a statewide decline in high school seniors that are eligible for the scholarship, which he attributed to the volunteering obligation.
“Not every student has the luxury to do volunteer hours. We have students who come from lower-income families that have to work to help support their families,” said DeSantis. “They should not be denied the opportunity to qualify for a scholarship because their socioeconomic background prevents them from being able to do these volunteer hours.”
About 120,000 students received about $650 million from the state during the 2020–21 school year, or an average of $5,400 per student.
“We know how difficult it has been with inflation at a 40-year high. The cost of living has accelerated at a rate that many Florida families are struggling with. Our administration has made sure to prioritize education … and making sure that our tuition remains affordable,” said Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez. “As we look to education being the key pillar of success … we are increasingly seeing how unaffordability within tuition is becoming a problem; students drowning in student debt and families trying to pitch in the best they can. This bill is really key for those students that have shown they will work to achieve their ultimate goals.”
According to DeSantis, the state’s top objective is providing children with an accessible, affordable education that won’t burden them with debt. He reiterated earlier remarks about how a four-year college degree was not the sole route to success and once more backed workforce development and vocational education as debt-free alternatives for careers and futures.