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Want to Go To College? Florida Republicans in Washington and Tallahassee Say You're On Your Own

Florida Republicans in Tallahassee Cut Funding For Bright Futures While Florida Republicans Slashed Funding For Pell Grants in Congress 

TALLAHASSEE, FL — Whether they’re in Tallahassee or Washington, Florida Republicans are intent on proving that they aren’t looking out for Florida’s parents, teachers and students. And for the millions of deserving Floridians who need scholarships to afford higher education, the GOP has sent one clear message: you’re on your own. 

In Tallahassee, Florida Republicans cut funding for the Bright Futures Scholarship program year after year, “squeezing college students as tuition increases,” while simultaneously spiking the cost of higher education by cutting funding for higher education by $300 million, forcing schools to raise tuition on students. And in Washington, Florida Republicans voted to cut Pell Grants and against plans to prevent student loan rates from doubling — while Congressmen like Allen West called student loans “communist” and Steve Southerland threatened to defund the Department of Education.  

“From Washington to Tallahassee, Florida Republicans have led an assault on our higher education system, made it harder for students to afford college, and shown that they aren’t on the side of our parents, students and teachers,” said Brannon Jordan, Florida Democratic Party spokeswoman. “And while they’re slashing funding for Pell Grants and the Bright Futures scholarship that millions of Floridians rely on, the Florida GOP always seems to find tax dollars to give more hand outs to corporate special interests and the wealthiest few. These misplaced priorities are wrong for the families who are working hard to send their kids to college, and they are wrong for our state. Higher education is the pathway to success and economic opportunity, which is why Florida Democrats are standing up for these vital investments that middle class families rely on.” 

For the past several weeks, Republicans have been “under siege across Florida from Democrats”  who have been highlighting how the GOP’s education policies are hurting our parents, teachers and students. FL Dems have been hammering the GOP for their support of a voucher scheme that drains millions of dollars from our public education system and sends our tax dollars to out of state corporations that want to profit off our children’s education.  Recently state legislative candidates from across Florida joined with Sen. Bob Graham, FDP Chair Smith and students to condemn the GOP’s cuts to higher education and last week parents and candidates joined with Former Education Commissioner Betty Castor to speak out on the GOP’s failed K-12 Education Policies.  


Republicans in Tallahassee cut the “Bright Futures” Scholarship program. “Another measure would cut thousands of students from the Bright Futures scholarships;” “Starting this year, recipients will only receive a certain amount of money per credit hour, and most of their fees won’t be covered. It’s a much smaller award than students received during the first decade of the program.” [Miami Herald, 2/29/12; NPR’s StateImpact, 8/20/12]

GOP funding cuts to the Bright Futures program are raising the cost of higher education for students. “The Florida Lottery’s contribution to Bright Futures has declined by $41 million in transferred funds to the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program, according to Florida Department of Education officials. Deborah Higgins, Bright Futures information specialist with the Florida Department of Education, said funds have decreased because the Florida Legislature appropriated less funding for the program this year…’The award per credit hour to be funded was reduced, therefore eligible students will receive a lesser award per their enrollment,’ said Higgins about the effects of funding cuts on the Florida Bright Futures program and on Florida students. [The FAMUAN, 10/16/12

Naples Daily News: The GOP’s cuts to Bright Futures are “squeezing college students as tuition increases.” “The decreasing coverage provided by Bright Futures means the more than 120,000 Florida students who receive funding from it are making up the difference. And with tuition becoming more and more expensive, some are feeling strained…For Brad Corfias, the lowered amount meant taking fewer courses per semester — and staying in college longer.”

Republicans like Rick Scott said education would be a priority. “I’d like to focus on what I believe are the three most important jobs I have… two, securing the right of every Floridian to a quality education” [Gov. Scott’s “State of the State,” 1/9/2012

But Republicans puts corporate special interests over middle class families. “The proposed 2012-13 budget…is a study in pork-barrel spending, reckless policy and a shortchanged future.” [Tampa Bay Times, 3/7/2012]

Florida Republicans in Congress Voted Against a Plan to Prevent an Increase in Student Loan Interest Rates. House Republicans voted against considering the Stop the Rate Hike Act of 2012. The measure would keep interest rates on need-based student loans at 3.4 percent in 2013, saving borrowers an average of $1,000 in loan repayment costs. Costs for the measure would have been offset by ending tax breaks for Big Oil. [H Res 691, Vote #389, 6/20/12; Congressional Record, p. H3817, 6/20/12] 

Florida Republicans in Congress Voted for a Plan That Cut Could Pell Grants for 9.6 Million Students. On March 29, 2012, Congressman West voted in favor of a spending plan that could cut Pell Grants by more than $1,000 in 2014 for 9.6 million students.  [H Con Res 112, Vote #151, 3/29/12; OMB, 3/21/12

452,770 Florida Students Had Stafford Loans in the 2012-2013 Academic Year.  [Education and Workforce Committee, accessed 6/20/12]

Two-Thirds of College Graduates Have Student Loans to Pay Off. “About two-thirds of college graduates have some student loans to pay off, and their average debt is about $25,000 to $28,700, according to estimates by education experts and organizations. (About 10% of those with loans owe more than $50,000 or so.)” [LA Times, 5/20/12

Florida Students Already Expecting Tuition Hikes Up to 15%. “University leaders approved tuition hikes for Florida’s public universities ranging from nine to 15 percent. On average tuition will increase 700 dollars next year. It could go even higher for students who borrow money to pay for school.” [WJHG, 6/23/12]

Congressman West Suggested Federal Student Loans Are “Communist.” At a town hall meeting this month, Congressman Allen West said, “You can start dictating where people can go to school, loans that they can get and the payment of those loans. I gotta tell you, that’s something that’s in a book written by Marx and Engels called the Communist Manifesto.” [Dania Beach Town Hall, 6/11/12]

Southerland Said He We Can’t Afford the Department of Education.  “I think departments like the Department of Education, Department of Energy, the EPA,  I think those are things that right now we can’t afford. And in business, if we can’t afford it, we don’t buy it. There’s a lot of money being spent in Washington D.C. that we could eliminate if we cut, and those are some of the departments I would cut right there.” [Suwannee County REC Candidate Forum, 6/08/10]

The Tampa Bay Times wrote that under the Republican’s budget the “Rich get richer.” “House Republicans envision a country where Americans would be increasingly on their own to afford food and medical care even when they are elderly, disabled or poor. It also would be a nation with a tax code that tilts further toward benefiting corporations and the wealthy.…Floridians should be concerned about all these misplaced priorities, but Medicare and Medicaid are particularly at risk…Congressional Republicans want to exacerbate the nation’s yawning income inequality while making life harder for those at the bottom.” [Tampa Bay Times, 3/31/12


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