Higher education bill proposes university mergers and scholarship cuts

The bill would also cut financial aid to as many as 30,000 private university students. (Pixabay)
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Two state universities could be merged with UF and FSU and sweeping changes to scholarships for private universities are part of a controversial higher education package passed by a House committee Wednesday.

New College would be merged with FSU and Florida Polytechnic University with UF.

Sponsor Representative Randy Fine said it comes down to cost.

“We could educate ten students at one of our other schools in many of these cases for what we are spending at these schools,” said Fine.

Florida Polytechnic argued the higher cost comes with a higher return on investment.

“Three times better than the average university state system,” said Florida Polytechnic Trustee Robert Stork.

New College did not speak on the legislation.

The bill would also cut financial aid to as many as 30,000 private university students.

It would limit the $2,800 a semester EASE grant to only those who qualify for financial assistance.

“The idea is: Is it a good use of tens of millions of dollars, which is what it costs, to subsidize wealthy kids to go to private schools?” said Fine.

But students like Brenda Guess who attends Keiser University in Sarasota said they fall in the middle.

“There's a gap for the need-based and then there's the families that currently are above that threshold. We're there because we're actually working. So don't take that away from us,” said Guess.

While both the mergers and the EASE grant cuts received flack from Republicans and Democrats alike, the bill passed and is now headed to the House floor.

One part of the bill supported by everyone on the committee would allow students who receive the Medallion Bright Futures Scholarship have 100 percent tuition covered at state or community colleges.

If they maintain a 3.5 percent GPA, they would then qualify for 100 percent tuition at a state university as well.