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Higher Ed Package Quickly Goes To Gov. Scott

Florida – A bill that would permanently expand Bright Futures merit scholarships is now on Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.

A little more than 13 hours after the Senate gave final approval in a 33-5 vote, the measure (SB 4) was signed by legislative leaders and presented Tuesday morning to the governor. Scott has until March 21 to act on the bill. The legislation, known as the “Excellence in Higher Education Act,” was a top priority for President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who has made the elevation of Florida’s 12 state universities one of the cornerstones of his two years as the Senate leader.

A similar initiative was vetoed by Scott last year, after he objected to provisions impacting Florida’s 28 state colleges. The new bill does not contain those provisions, and Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who sponsored the legislation, said lawmakers worked with Scott’s office on the measure.

In addition to the Bright Futures provisions, the bill would expand or create several need-based aid programs and allow Florida universities to provide scholarships to out-of-state National Merit Scholars. It also would create a four-year graduation rate performance standard for universities. And it would ban “free speech zones” on university and state college campuses.

Photo courtesy Ekaphon maneechot and Shutterstock.com.

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