Student heads to Tallahassee to lobby for education costs

Students across the state were impacted by legislative changes last year to the Bright Futures Scholarship. Now, one USF student hopes to change it back.

Stefano Di Portigliatti, director of Student Government (SG) Department of Government Affairs, will attend a legislative meeting Thursday to try to convince the Florida Legislature’s joint committee to return the scholarship back to its original state.

‘I don’t have Bright Futures,’ Portigliatti said. ‘That’s not something worry about personally, but it’s something that the students have brought to us as a concern.’

Students who received the scholarship were able to receive either 75 percent or 100 percent coverage on their tuition. But for students who enrolled in college for the first time at the start of the 2009-10 academic year, Bright Futures paid a flat rate based on a student’s award level instead.

The scholarship has three award levels: Florida Academic Scholar (FAS), Academic Top Scholar (ATS) and Florida Medallion’Scholars (FMS).

Under changes in the Higher Education Appropriations Conforming Bill, Bright Futures pays a flat rate of $126 per student credit hour (SCH) for FAS and ATS recipients at four-year schools and $78 per SCH at community’colleges.

ATS recipients receive an additional $54 per SCH. The scholarship pays FMS recipients $95 per SCH at four-year schools and $59 at community colleges.

USF also increased its tuition by 15 percent last year.

‘That really screwed a lot of people over,’ Portigliatti said.

At a SG senate meeting Tuesday, he asked other senators to join him in lobbying, but because of scheduling conflicts, none could attend.

‘I’m not going because I have class and office hours, but I know he’s always asking for senate involvement, and it is important because we are more of a direct representation of the students than executive (branch) is,’ said Joanne Brown, chairwoman for the Community and Government Affairs Committee. ‘It’s a system that’s running out of money, so I would be in support of changing its standards.’

Portigliatti said he also plans to address the Board of Governor’s ‘New Florida Initiative,’ which aims to create high-waged jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and’mathematics (STEM).

He said the Legislature should consider STEM areas when passing bills and deciding where to allocate money for education.

‘The people who are proficient in those areas in our state will be able to attract companies in those areas and (technology is) really where the future is,’ he said. ‘So you can say it’s a race and whoever gets there first will have a leading edge in economics.’