Scott Offers $65 Million In Help For College Students
By Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida // January 23, 2015
extending Bright Futures Scholarships
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Gov. Rick Scott continued Thursday to roll out his budget proposal for the coming year, pitching a nearly $65 million plan to reduce the cost of college by repealing the sales tax on textbooks and extending Bright Futures scholarships to cover summer courses.
The proposal is the latest from Scott to address college affordability, something the governor has embraced as the centerpiece of his higher education agenda.
Scott has also pushed to keep tuition low, ultimately getting the Legislature to agree to largely scrap a law allowing universities to request annual tuition increases of up to 15 percent from the university system’s Board of Governors.
The University of Florida and Florida State University can still request 6 percent increases if they meet certain requirements.
“Eliminating the sales tax on college textbooks will directly help every Florida student with the cost of college by offsetting the rising price of textbooks,” Scott said in a prepared statement.
“Also, by expanding Bright Futures Scholarships to include summer courses, we are offering more flexibility for students to achieve their goals.”
According to Scott’s office, getting rid of the sales tax on textbooks would save a student taking at least five courses a semester an estimated $60 a year “at a minimum.”
It would cost the state about $41.4 million, which would boost the total cost of Scott’s proposed tax cuts for the budget year that begins July 1to more than $500 million.
Scott’s office said his final budget, set to be unveiled next week, would include more tax cuts.
Scott promised during his campaign to slash taxes by $1 billion over the next two years.
The governor also pledged $23.5 million for the Bright Futures change, though a recent study from the Board of Governors indicated more money would likely be needed to cover the entire cost of summer courses for scholarship recipients just at the state’s 12 universities.
That could put schools in the position of selecting which students get the awards, or how much they get.
Scott’s budget recommendations would ultimately have to be approved by the Legislature, which starts its annual session March 3.
“He continues to want to try to bring down the cost of a college education here in Florida, and we’ll put that into the hopper and see if we can’t figure out a way to fund it and help him be successful,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said Thursday after a committee meeting.
Lee said he hadn’t heard about the Bright Futures proposal before he spoke to reporters.