Jeremy Ring, a member of the Florida Senate, wants to change Bright Futures. Ring has written a bill – for which he is still seeking support, according to tampabay.com – that would alter how the scholarship program’s funds are distributed.
In Ring’s bill, students who plan to enter the fields of medicine, engineering, mathematics, education or nursing will see their Bright Futures money increase by 10 percent, with an additional stipend of $330 per semester. While those students will see an increase in funds, students who chose to enter any other field will see their scholarship money reduced.
While the attempt to reward those seeking to enter the field of education is highly commendable, the state should not penalize students for entering other fields of study.
Offering unequal rewards may sway students to enter fields of study in which they are not gifted. Altering students’ vocational paths may deprive society of great leaders. Many great leaders have had backgrounds in the liberal arts. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for example, received his BA in sociology, an area for which students would not receive increased funding in Ring’s bill.
Students also learn which subjects they enjoy during their first years of higher education, and majors are often changed. Students entering college determined to become doctors may find themselves inclined to pursue another field or unable to keep up with the workload. Monitoring each student’s progress in a specific field would likely cost the state additional funds.
The majority of students who enter liberal arts studies understand that their earning potential will not be as great as that of engineers or doctors, which is already a disincentive. Depriving them of scholarship money for which they originally qualified is unnecessary.
Ring is also devaluing a community of people that plays a large role in shaping society. While those who major in creative writing may not be able to perform surgery, they provide an important service. The liberal arts enrich culture and enhance the communication that allows social organisms to function.
Novels have inspired medical achievements and the work of great scientists. It is difficult to say that those who worked in NASA were not inspired in some manner by the writings of Jules Verne or other authors.
The more diverse a society is, the more successful it can be. While Ring’s desire to see more doctors, engineers and mathematicians is noble, it will hinder the overall quality of life for those who do not desire to work in those fields but choose to for financial reasons.