Possible Changes To Benacquisto and Florida Aid

SB 86 has been proposed in the Florida State Senate. Here is the full text of the proposed bill: https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2021/86/BillText/Filed/HTML. This bill has a bunch of impacts on Florida scholarships if passed. For any state funding, there would be a new requirement that the student’s major has clear career opportunities after 60 credit hours, from what I understand. The part that affects me is the Benacquisto section. There are two big amendments to the Benacquisto statute. First, the language has been changed to make 2021-22 the last academic year for scholarship eligibility. Those already receiving the scholarship would still receive it but it may not continue. I AM NOT saying they are cutting the program. This bill has a long way to go in both houses and could always be killed or amended. New statutes could also always extend the program. The second change affects all Benacquisto scholars but not immediately. It is a small change from guaranteeing the COA to whatever the General Appropriations Act specifies. This means funding would be even more year-to-year then it already is. The GAA could always specify full COA, so right now this changes nothing. And again, this is a bill only in committee. I just wanted to keep everyone updated on this and make sure everyone is aware of what is happening with Florida Student Aid.

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I would think it would be the college’s responsibility to only offer majors that have ‘clear career paths.’ Why would a college offer degrees in majors that have no career opportunities? Is Comparative Literature okay? History? Gender Studies?

I can understand the requirement that at 60 credits you have a major and that those 60 credits have dented the graduation requirements for a major, but to have the student prove that the major has career opportunities?

I don’t know how BF works for public schools with regard to number of credits. My daughter went to a private school and I was sort of shocked to learn that BF only covered 120 credits. Her degree required 131, so her final semester she only got something like $300 from BF (back when the amount per credit was a lot lower than it is now). She wasn’t taking any blow off credits (yes, she needed that tennis class to get to the 131) and she was only in college for 8 semesters, but BF has a limit on how much it would pay.

Thank you for the update. I’ve been trying to find a reputable source to follow for any possible changes to the program. My NMF daughter will be a freshman this fall and is hoping to attend UF via Benacquisto. I am terrified that she will list UF as her first choice, then the program will be defunded and she will be left with no scholarship. This bill gives me a little hope that they won’t just pull the rug out from under these kids this fall who are counting on it.

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I’m in same boat. I worry even if we make it for first year, that the rug could be pulled out years 2 through 4. I would not be choosing UF if not guaranteed a 4 year scholarship, subject to maintaining a certain GPA (assuming I get in of course!)

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These concerns are valid. I’ll be attending FSU and they haven’t affirmatively said they will guarantee it yet either. I’m just going to be patient though, a lot of time left. Hopefully the bill doesn’t pass though. I suggest you contacting the appropriate state senators.

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Definitely a cause of concern that the COA may effectively become subject to an annual legislative determination via the appropriations process. My daughter will have a much tougher decision to make between UVA (in state but no aid) vs UF honors.

I see the effective date of the general appropriations act is July 2021, so she may have to commit by May with no idea what the cost will be even in year 1. Thank you for the post - it is better to know early but I am not looking forward to telling my daughter about the possible change.

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Yes. So far I’ll be deciding between Michigan and Florida and will only consider Florida if it is a 4 year full ride.

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In the past FSU has affirmatively stated it will fund COA for it Benacquisto recipients if the state ever defunds it or ends the program, but I’d email admissions yourself. UF has always said it will not.

Unless this bill dies early, I don’t think there will be any clear answer before college decisions must be made.

I’ve got one OOS NMF son attending FSU. Next year he’ll be a senior, so he should be OK. But I have another son who will likely be NMF and graduates HS in 2022. We were looking hard at UF and FSU for financial safety schools, but it this bill passes we will shift that focus to UT-Dallas, Alabama or other schools that give out big NMF awards.

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Many thanks to @FuriousGreenTNT for bringing this to everybody’s attention. These appear to be the main takeaways after reading the bill, should it pass:

  • Benacquisto will indeed end after academic year 2021-22;
  • if you are graduating next year and are OOS, you are not going to get any money under this program unless your university has pledged to step in (not UF);
  • if you are already enrolled or planning to do so this coming fall (2021), you will still get
    • in-state tuition at a minimum;
    • likely, some additional money but not the full cost of attendance;
    • this is still a pretty good deal for UF, considering Florida’s low state tuition
  • in my estimation, there will be a pretty substantial fight around this bill, not in the least because defining which majors will be funded is not going to go down well with university administrators and faculty.

Other thoughts?

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This sums it up to my understanding. Thanks for the summary! I hope this bill doesn’t pass but good to know everything in case. The bill does still maintain OOS cost waivers. So a bit of a silver lining there.

Thank you for bringing this up and for the great summary. S22 is likely to become a NMSF, and it’s very useful to know about all this now, as we originally planned to consider FL schools. I feel that even if the bill doesn’t pass now, a similar bill may get reintroduced in the upcoming years.

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Thanks for the nice summary.
There are indeed some risks in the coming years, however, I don’t think they would terminate the scholarship for the enrolled students and put the big group of 1,200 students out of school. It may be discontinued for the future incoming classes though.

Correction: item 2 should read “…graduating from HIGH SCHOOL next year…” Apologies for the misunderstanding.

One potential compromise as the legislators consider the bill could be to continue Benacquisto for in-state students, but not OOS students.

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Some positivity on funding. The Governor submitted an increase in funding in 21-22 for Benacquisto of about $7,000,000 for the Senate appropriations committee consideration. I don’t follow Senate funding from year to year, so I don’t know the likelihood of the Senate adjusting his funding request for this category but at least the Governor is attempting to continue funding it.

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I agree that there would be pushback from the universities for the reason you mention, but also because any significant threat to Benacquisto funding for those students who are already scholars could lead to an exodus of those students (along with whatever funds from the state they represent.)

I also noticed the governor wanted to increase funding for the Benacquisto for this budget, so I suppose there is the possibility of a veto?

The bill, as a whole, is nutty, especially the part that limits eligibility for scholarships based on major. Hoping other legislators are more reasonable than the one who introduced this thing. Then again, this is Florida, so who knows?

It’s indeed nutty. Benacquisto scholarship aside, the demand to support only the majors directly leading to employments is totally crazy. If this is the case, all the arts and science programs should be discontinued as they do not create new jobs immediately, although they create values in a long run.
But it’s not a surprise after learning a little bit about the senator’s background. Having gone to two community colleges, ending up with an associate degree in Funeral service and continued a fantastic career in the same industry, it makes perfect sense for him to have funeral service as the only major to be sponsored :slight_smile:

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@thehbc Thanks for chiming in. Would you mind posting a reference? www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/7601/urlt/FY2122BR.pdf lists an increase of just under $6MM for Benacquisto funding in FY2021-22 over FY 2020-21 (line item 67, p. 2). If I understand it correctly, this # was based on projections submitted by universities under the assumption that the program would continue. Not sure if that particular line item has anything to do with the Governor proper but maybe I am using the wrong source?

I used these links which show the funding from two funding sources

http://www.bolderbrighterbetterfuture.com/web%20forms/Budget/BudgetIssueDetail.aspx?ndx=0&si=48200200&pc=0308000000&icd=3000030&icnt=9&recnum=5&title=BENACQUISTO%20SCHOLARSHIP%20PROGRAM

http://www.bolderbrighterbetterfuture.com/web%20forms/Budget/BudgetIssueDetail.aspx?ndx=0&si=48200200&pc=0308000000&icd=1001000&icnt=9&recnum=2&title=ESTIMATED%20EXPENDITURES%20-%20OPERATIONS

Also page 29 of the document linked here. https://uploads-ssl.webflow.com/5cd5801dfdf7e5927800fb7f/602bfe08b917290431dc966d_RT_Gov_Budget_FY2021-22.pdf

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Bill Page (floridaleadsbudget.com)

This link might be helpful.

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