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DeSantis visits Tampa to sign a bill that expands Bright Futures eligibility

A man in a suit stands at a podium. Behind him are mostly children and a few adults. In front of him is a sign that says "Brighter Futures."
Jack Prator
WUSF Public Media
Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at Hillsborough Community College about Florida's higher education system before signing into law a bill that expands in-state students' eligibility for the Bright Futures scholarship.

HB 461 allows 100 hours of paid work experience to replace community service hours required for Bright Futures.

Gov. Ron DeSantis paid a visit to the Hillsborough Community College campus in Ybor City on Monday to sign a bill that expands eligibility requirements for the state's Bright Futures scholarship.

The scholarship covers either 100% or 75% of tuition for high-achieving, Florida students. Bright Futures has been awarded to more than 725,000 students since 1997.

DeSantis said the state has recently seen a decline in the number of eligible high school seniors. He added that part of the reason is the volunteer hours requirement.

“We have students who come from lower income families who need to work to be able to help support their families,” DeSantis said. “They should not be denied the opportunity to qualify for a scholarship, just because their socioeconomic background makes it more difficult to be able to do this type of volunteer work.”

House Bill 461 also expands tuition coverage to allow students who only qualified for 75% tuition cost to be fully covered at Florida state colleges.

Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, said it was important that the legislature help people who work for a living.

"As someone who grew up on a farm, and you know, worked from (the) age of 10 paying social security, this would have been my kind of a bill had I chose to go into university out of school," Simpson said.

The bill allows 100 hours of paid work experience to replace community service hours required for Bright Futures.

DeSantis said this will allow students who work 100 hours total to qualify for the scholarship’s highest award.

“If you're somebody that is having to actually work, particularly as a high school student, to be able to help your family,” DeSantis said. “Those hours should also count toward the community service hours so that you, too, can be eligible for the Bright Futures scholarship.”

DeSantis also promised Florida would be “holding the line” on tuition costs as inflation rises.

While DeSantis has previously defended Bright Futures from efforts to limit which majors would be funded by the scholarship program, he touched on the controversy again during the press conference.

“I’m a big believer in higher education but I’m not a believer in plunging people $150,000 into debt with a degree in ‘zombie studies,’” he said. “That is not a pathway to success.”

Jack Prator is the WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for summer of 2022.