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Hendry County superintendent says Bright Futures legislation could hurt students college chances

An education leader in Southwest Florida is speaking out against proposed legislation of a vital scholarship.

Superintendent Michael Swindle of Hendry County District Schools says proposed changes to the Bright Futures Scholarship by state lawmakers could hurt students looking for a chance at college.

The upcoming state budget calls for the removal of a $600 stipend from Bright Futures. Tens of thousands of students each year are awarded Florida Bright Futures based on their GPA. Depending on the scholarship, the state pays 75% to 100% of their college tuition and fees.

Swindle says, if this promise is broken, the dreams of many students in his district could be over before they even begin — all because they can’t afford to go to college.

FGCU, UF and FSU are some of the state universities Swindle worries could be financially out of reach for his students if Senate Bill 86 passes.

“We live in an area in the state that has a very high need, a very vulnerable population that has taken great advantage of the Bright Futures Scholarship,” Swindle explained. “So this threatens to take away post-secondary education opportunities for a large portion of our students.”

Swindle is concerned, if this bill becomes a law, it will take away the consistency of awarded scholarship funds to students. Instead, the amount of money a student is promised is at the mercy of the state’s budget each year. Swindle told us students and their parents deserve the consistent funding while in school.

“If you are a sophomore or junior coming up and you see that it is no longer an opportunity, that could really have devastating effects on their dreams and their aspirations and their ability to achieve college education,” Swindle said.

If SB 86 passes, it goes into effect July 1.

Swindle worries any slight financial reduction of scholarship money could have a huge impact to students statewide.

“Having the opportunity for students to be able to achieve that post-secondary education is phenomenal,” Swindle said. “That is how we move forward, making sure that students get degrees or certificates, no matter if it’s in engineering or all the way to welding and mechanics.”

Reporter:Andryanna Sheppard
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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