Yesterday Governor Rick Scott vetoed SB 374, a conforming bill that would have overhauled higher education funding for Florida residents and state institutions. That bill included the changes made at the last minute without public debate which “moved the goalposts” and denied USF an opportunity at preeminent status to which it was already on track.
Preeminent status comes with a pool of $48 million in funding for qualifying institutions. Right now there are only two universities that qualify, Florida and Florida State. Because of this veto, USF will become the third preeminent school next fiscal year, and would share in this funding equally.
So hooray, USF! Right? Well, let’s not spike the football.
There are still questions about whether the expansion of Bright Futures will happen. The bill took the program back to a 100% scholarship for high-achieving students, and threw in $300 for books a semester as well as funded some summer classes. The money is allocated in the actual budget, but the language points to SB 374 as to how to spend it. Since that’s been vetoed... what happens now?
Same thing with the First Generation Matching Grant Program: the match of private gifts goes from 1:1 to 2:1 to help more first-in-their-family low-income students attend college. That allows more people to access college. This is a good thing.
A list of some of what SB 374 did is here. And though the caveats thrown in at the last minute to harm USF’s path to preeminence were harmful, the bill as a whole has a lot of good public policy, some of which now falls by the wayside.
Hard to summarize SB 374, but it would have increased student aid, capped 4-yr degrees at state colleges, boosted faculty... Now vetoed. pic.twitter.com/IW8erzs6ar— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) June 14, 2017
A World Class Faculty and Scholar program is something desperately wanted by all state institutions to increase their academic profile. That money is still in the budget... but what happens to it now?
Also now more community colleges can continue to offer four-year degrees, as St. Pete College does already. How does that effect schools like USF? Good thing or a bad thing?
So don’t expect USF to be super-excited about this publicly. Preeminent status and the funding that comes with it was a huge priority for Fowler Avenue, but there are downsides to this veto as well.
You might be waiting for that video of Judy Genshaft celebrating about this for awhile. So we’ll leave you with our favorite gif of her instead.