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Scholarships for liberal arts majors threatened under controversial Florida bill

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Florida lawmakers are weighing a bill that would cut state-funded scholarship money for college students pursuing degrees with low employment prospects.  

SB-86, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, passed the Senate Education Committee earlier this month and is on its way to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, which will consider the measure next week.

Under the proposal, money from Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship program would be exclusive to students who choose to pursue a degree from a list approved by the Board of Governors and Board of Education.

An initial version of the bill proposed that students who pursue degrees not on the list would be eligible for scholarship money up to a maximum of 60 credit hours – which is roughly half of a full four-year degree.

The Senate on Monday revised the proposal so that students pursuing such degrees would have scholarship money decreased by a set amount, WKMG-TV reported.

Opponents of the measure told the station that it unfairly puts liberal arts degrees at an unfair advantage and that the government ought not to be involved in choosing what scholarship money covers.

In a letter to state senators on Monday, Baxley said he believes that all students should be encouraged to pursue their passions, but noted that “higher education comes at a significant cost to both students and taxpayers and there needs to be at least some element of career planning involved.”

“We have awakened a giant. We have to reconnect the education and economic model and we have begun that process,” Baxley wrote.

During a Wednesday press conference, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis voiced his support for the Bright Futures program.

“I’ve made very clear, I think Bright futures is something that Florida families have relied upon. It’s something that I support. I fully funded it in my budget, and we hope that the Legislature follows suit with that as well.”

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