Bush Signs Bill Helping First-Generation Students Attend College

Higher education is about to get more affordable for thousands of students who are the first in their family to go to college in Florida. Jeb Bush has signed a bill into law that creates an $11.5 million scholarship program designed to boost minority enrollment.

The bill was championed by first-generation college students themselves.

Surrounded by several first-generation college students, Jeb Bush signed a new law that makes more state aid available for low-income kids whose parents never made it past high school.

Florida A&M University student Keneshia Grant is one of them. She lobbied lawmakers hard to make the dream of college a little more accessible for the young people coming up behind her.

“This is very important to me because the children below me that are coming up used to be me and still are, members of my family and of my community, so it’s near and dear to my heart because I can relate to what a difference financial aid makes for students.”

This legislation is a direct response to a drop-off in minority enrollment at Florida’s colleges and universities. Some critics blame the governor’s own One Florida program that eliminated affirmative action.

The governor maintains abolishing quotas was the right thing to do. He says the drop-off is mostly among out-of-state minority students.

Still, Bush agrees Florida needs to do a better job of helping smart young people who don’t think college is within reach.

“It’s up to us to identify them, to inspire them and to give them the tools to be successful and then to tear down the barriers to entry if their incomes are too low.”

Keneshia Grant calls the First Generation Matching Grant program a good starting point.

“I look forward to all the legislators and other elected officials as well as the students of Florida fighting to make sure needs-based aid and financial aid, access and diversity for all students.”

She believes Florida’s future depends on it.

The First Generation Matching Grant program ran into trouble at the Capitol this spring when some lawmakers proposed making it available to the children of illegal immigrants. That part was stripped out of the bill because it was too controversial to make it through this year.