Important legislation that would make community college essentially free for all Floridians whose households make less than $50,000 has stalled in the Florida Senate after being introduced Jan. 14.
Senate Bill 1004, introduced by Sen. José Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami), would create the Sunshine Scholarship Program that would cover tuition and fees not paid for by federal Pell grants, ensuring that low-income students who want to attend community college or trade school have the financial means to do so.
This bill is a perfect representation of higher education legislation that both sides of the aisle can get behind.
In addition, the legislation requires that those who take part in the scholarship must “reside and work” in Florida for the same amount of time they are enrolled in a Florida institution, otherwise the scholarship will need to be paid back with interest the same as a loan.
For example, if a student attended two years of community college, they would then need to live or work in Florida for at least two years.
This legislation would bring prosperity to Florida and would be in accordance with a common conservative value that a person has to work in order to get ahead in life. If this bill was implemented, it would give many Floridians the opportunity to access career and technical education, providing more opportunities to save and invest in Florida’s economy.
However, the legislation is unlikely to gain traction in the Republican-controlled Legislature because Rodriguez, a Democrat, introduced the bill.
The Legislature needs to look beyond their partisan blinders and engage in these reforms that are necessary to give more Floridians access to higher education.
Florida Republicans have long been proponents of career and technical education at colleges and trade schools. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a broad education bill that included promoting trade school as an alternative to college in middle and high school and offering vocational training options in high school. The Sunshine Scholarship Program essentially works hand in glove with that legislation.
For a party that’s so interested in promoting trade school to ensure we have a prepared workforce, they should also want to make those schools more affordable to underprivileged Floridians.
This bill is an opportunity for true bipartisan action, a rare sight in this Legislature.
Jared Sellick is a senior studying political science.