The press release below was from the Florida Senate, dated March 4, 2018:
Tallahassee — Senate Bill 4, the Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2018, sponsored by Senate President-Designate Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), today saw final passage in both the Florida Senate and the Florida House of Representatives. The legislation will now be sent to Florida Governor Rick Scott.
“Senate Bill 4 is essential to securing the permanent expansion of Bright Futures for the nearly 100,000 students who have earned this scholarship, and I am grateful to Speaker Corcoran and our colleagues in the House for passing this critical legislation today,” said Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart). “Last year we passed historic increases in both need-based and merit-based student financial aid. While the increases in need-based aid are already built into our budget, the passage of Senate Bill 4 is necessary to maintain the increase in Bright Futures funding for our Academic Scholars. Senate Bill 4 also restores the Medallion Scholarship to 75 percent of tuition and fees. By passing this legislation today, the Legislature is telling Florida students and families that they can count on the Bright Futures Scholarship as they plan their investment in an education at one of our excellent colleges or universities.”
Senate Bill 4 reinstates full funding of the Bright Futures Florida Academic Scholars award at 100 percent of tuition and fees for spring, summer and fall semesters, plus $300 in fall and spring semesters to cover instructional materials and other costs. The legislation also reinstates funding for the Bright Futures Florida Medallion Scholars award at 75 percent of tuition and fees for spring, summer, and fall semesters, beginning in fall semester of the 2018-2019 academic year.
“This legislation will provide the policy and budget resources our universities need to increase their ability to compete as national destination institutions, while preserving access and increasing affordability for Floridians,” said President-Designate Galvano. “From the permanent expansion of Bright Futures Academic and Medallion Scholarships, to codifying key investments in faculty recruitment and improving the quality of our excellent graduate and professional schools, this bill boosts the strength and competitiveness of our state universities as our primary economic engine to drive vibrant, sustainable economic development and growth in high-paying jobs for not only this generation, but also future generations of Florida students.”
The bill also expands and enhances policy and funding tools state universities can leverage to recruit and retain the very best faculty, enrich professional and graduate school strength and viability, and bring aging infrastructure and research laboratories into the 21st century. Senate Bill 4 ensures universities remain accountable to Florida taxpayers by refining university performance expectations to incentivize and reward state university performance excellence, and creating the “Campus Free Expression Act,” which ensures the right to free-speech activities. The bill includes approximately $124 million to fund the scholarship programs addressed in the bill for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
“Protecting and defending the constitutional rights of Floridians is a top priority,” continued President Negron. “This legislation ensures that our taxpayer-funded college and university campuses remain open for the free, safe, and respectful expression of differing points of view. Dating back to antiquity, institutions of higher education have served as a forum for free speech and the open exchange of ideas. No one has a right to shut down speech simply because it makes someone feel uncomfortable. Florida’s universities will continue to achieve national distinction because they are training our students to articulate and defend their ideas in an open, responsible way that prepares them for the real world.”
Summary of Senate Bill 4 – The Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2018
PRESERVE ACCESS AND AFFORDABILITY FOR STUDENTS AND FAMILIES
Senate Bill 4 expands merit-based and need-based financial aid funding available to families so every student in Florida who qualifies and earns the privilege to attend one of our state universities has the opportunity to pursue a higher education.
Expands Student Financial Assistance and Support
- Expands need-based state aid, and university or college gift aid, for students with demonstrated financial need.
- Expands the First Generation Matching Grant Program to include community college students and doubles the state match for private donations supporting the program (2:1 match).
- Creates a new Florida Farmworker Student Scholarship for children of migrant families to earn technical and college credentials.
- Expands merit-based state gift aid for high-performing students.
- Reinstates full funding of the Bright Futures Florida Academic Scholar award at 100 percent of tuition and fees, plus $300 in fall and spring semesters to cover instructional materials and other costs, beginning in this 2017-2018 academic year and guarantees funding for 2018 summer term tuition and fees for Bright Futures Florida Academic Scholar awards.
- Reinstates funding for the Bright Futures Florida Medallion Scholar award at 75 percent of tuition and fees for fall and spring semesters, beginning in fall semester of the 2018-2019 academic year, and guarantees funding for 2019 summer term tuition and fees for Bright Futures Florida Medallion Scholar awards.
- Expands Benacquisto Scholarship awards (full cost of attendance) to recruit out-of-state National Merit Scholar award winners.
Increases Student Access to Internship and Job Opportunities
- Requires each state university to use labor market projections and related degree production analyses to identify internship opportunities for students to benefit from industry experts and mentors, earn industry certifications, and become employed in high-demand fields.
Campus Free Expression
- Creates the “Campus Free Expression Act” and establishes definitions and codifies right to free-speech activities.
- The bill prohibits public institutions of higher education to designate any area of campus as a free-speech zone, but authorizes them to create and enforce restrictions that are reasonable and content-neutral on time, place, and manner of expression, and that are narrowly tailored to a significant institutional interest.
RECRUIT AND RETAIN TOP FACULTY
Senate Bill 4 expands and enhances policy and funding tools state universities can leverage to recruit and retain the very best faculty, enrich professional and graduate school strength and viability, and bring aging infrastructure and research laboratories into the 21st century.
Establishes World Class Faculty Scholar Program
- Creates the World Class Faculty Scholar Program to help universities recruit, recognize, and retain exemplary faculty, research scholars, and expert teams.
Establishes University Professional and Graduate Degree Excellence Program
- Creates the University Professional and Graduate Degree Excellence Program to promote quality and excellence in university professional schools, and improve graduate study outcomes in high-impact fields of medicine, law, and business.
ELEVATE UNIVERSITY DISTINCTION AND NATIONAL PROMINENCE
Senate Bill 4 ensures universities remain accountable to Florida taxpayers by refining university performance expectations to incentivize and reward state university performance excellence and recognition in academics, instruction, research, and community accomplishments and achievements.
Incentivizes On-Time Graduation of Full-Time Students
- Refines university performance expectations to incentivize and reward institutions for graduating full-time bachelor degree students in four years.
- Preeminent State Research University: Upgrades the graduation metric to a 4-year graduation rate of 60 percent or higher. The current metric is a 6-year rate at 70 percent or higher. The bill provides one transitional year for any university having earned preeminent or emerging preeminent status based on the 2018 determination under current metrics to maintain that status for the 2018-19 academic year and receive 2018-19 preeminence funds accordingly.
- University Performance Incentive Funding: Updates metrics to specify a 4-year graduation rate and require benchmarks for the “access” metric that reward institutions for performance success in serving Pell grant students.
- Tightens state university relationships with their direct-support organizations’ leadership, use of funds, and public disclosure activities.
Promotes State University Programs of Excellence
- Directs the Board of Governors to establish standards and measures to recognize, enhance, and promote individual degree programs in state universities across the system, which reflect national excellence, prominence, and distinction.