Representatives Dan Daley (Coral Springs) and Marie Woodson (Hollywood) filed House Bill 979 on Tuesday. This legislation was proposed by students who participated in the Democracy in Action Program. It would require high school students to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as a requirement for graduation unless a parent or guardian objects. In the Senate, a companion bill will be filed by Senator Shevrin Jones (West Park).
The Senate companion bill, which is more widely applicable, applies FAFSA requirements to students entering ninth grade in the 2023-24 school year, while the House bill would go into effect for the 2022-23 academic year.
“I had the opportunity to meet my former boss, Representative Ari Porth, because of the Democracy in Action Initiative, a student bill proposal contest within Broward County,” said Daley. “I am proud to continue this tradition and sponsor a student-proposed bill in the Florida House of Representatives. Filling out a FAFSA is one of the most important steps students and their families can take to pay for college or technical education. This legislation will encourage students to take advantage of federal aid through grants, scholarships, and loans.”
FAFSA has proven to be an incredibly valuable program for high school students and their families in encouraging college attendance. Providing over $800 per student on average, the federal program has drastically cut down on college tuition costs for middle-class families.
While resourceful, FAFSA application processes have been notoriously difficult to navigate for first-time college-goers, leading to lost financial aid and grant awards. With the bill in place, students would have greater access to school resources that can assist with filing and ensuring students receive proper funding.
In addition to FAFSA, Florida students are eligible for the Bright Futures program, which awards financial scholarships based on high-school grades and the completion of civic volunteer service hours.
Governor Ron DeSantis’ recently announced ‘Freedom First Budget’ plans to fully fund the Bright Futures program, allocating upwards of $602 million for students, also setting aside $40 million for textbook stipends as an indeed incentive to qualify for the program.
DeSantis also guaranteed the current financial status of Bright Futures amid fears that funding cuts would occur.