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Get the latest coverage of the 2024 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

A Florida bill would give high school dropouts a second chance at a college education

A plan to re-engage high school dropouts is nearing passage in the Florida Legislature. On Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, the Florida Senate approved a measure that provides free college tuition to dropouts. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Jason DeCrow/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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FR103966 AP
A plan to re-engage high school dropouts is nearing passage in the Florida Legislature. On Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, the Florida Senate approved a measure that provides free college tuition to dropouts. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Lawmakers are getting behind SB 7032 which provides free rides to college.

The Florida Senate on Wednesday passed a proposal that would create a special grant program that give high school dropouts in Florida, a free ride to any public college or career center in the state.

The measure (SB 7032) establishes the Graduation Alternative to Traditional Education, or GATE, program within the state Department of Education.

"Students who have withdrawn from high school have far fewer postsecondary and financial opportunities than a student with a high-school diploma," bill sponsor Sen. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, said.

Sen. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, debates on a bill to allow teachers to be armed during session Wednesday May 1, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)
Steve Cannon/AP
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FR127919 AP
Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, debates on a bill to allow teachers to be armed during session Wednesday May 1, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

The bill exempts students that are enrolled in the GATE program from paying "tuition and specified fees, and the costs of instructional materials." Students can also join a career center at no charge.

Under the proposal, participants must be 16 to 21 years old, maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average, and finish any coursework within three years. Some Floridians have raised concerns saying the bill is too lenient, but Sen. Grall thinks otherwise.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that every student has the tools, resources, and support they need to realize their full potential,” she said.

The measure is nearing passage in the Florida Legislature, but still needs the House’s approval before going to the governor’s desk.

Adrian Andrews is a multimedia journalist with WFSU Public Media. He is a Gadsden County native and a first-generation college graduate from Florida A&M University. Adrian is also a military veteran, ending his career as a Florida Army National Guard Non-Comissioned Officer.

Adrian has experience in print writing, digital content creation, documentary, and film production. He has spent the last four years on the staff of several award-winning publications such as The Famuan, Gadsden County News Corp, and Cumulus Media before joining the WFSU news team.