Republican lawmaker wants to merge Florida Polytechnic, New College into other universities

We had no idea it was coming, Robert Stork, a member of Florida Polytechnics board of trustees, testified Wednesday.While plans to consolidate the universities raised eyebrows in and out of the committee room, much of the pushback on the bill was directed at changes to college scholarship programs.One of the proposed changes would be to the Bright Futures scholarship programs Medallion-level scholarships. Fine said the change is meant to nudge more students to attend state colleges before enrolling in universities.Currently, the Medallion scholarship pays 75 percent of tuition and fees. The bill would expand that to cover 100 percent of tuition for students enrolled in associate degree programs at state colleges.We are offering 40,000 children and young adults the pathway to get 100 percent aid for a college degree. They dont have that today, Fine said.But the changes proposed for two private-college scholarships riled up people the most.Fine said the bill would turn the Effective Access to Student Education, or EASE, and the Access to Better Learning and Education, or ABLE, programs into need-based scholarships, in part to stop subsidizing wealthy kids to go to private college.The change would require students to qualify for Pell grants and demonstrate financial need before they could be eligible to receive awards under the programs.The move would disqualify roughly 65 percent of students who currently receive awards under the EASE program, said Bob Boyd, the president and CEO of the Independent Colleges & Universities of Florida. The next stop for the measure likely will be the Appropriations Committee, where it could be heard as early as next week.