'Woke' majors could be in trouble under Florida bill

Florida legislators are considering a bill that would restrict state scholarship funding for programs that aren't in demand in the workforce.

The list of approved programs of study would be created by the Board of Governors and the Board of Education.

Florida students who choose “woke” majors that lack workforce applications may be facing higher tuition bills, pending the outcome of a bill currently in the state Senate.

The bill would restrict the state’s Bright Futures Scholarship dollars to students who choose a college major from a list of approved programs of study dictated by the Board of Governors and Board of Education. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee on March 16 and is now headed to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, which is set to consider the proposal next week.

In the bill’s first iteration, students whose fields of study are not on the approved list would have their scholarships limited to a maximum of 60 credit hours, or around half of a typical four-year degree. But WKMG-TV reported that the Senate has revised the bill so that scholarships for disfavored majors wouldn’t be cut, just decreased by a set amount per student.

The Board of Governors and State Board of Education would be required to publish annually a list of “career certificate and undergraduate and graduate degree programs that they determine lead directly to employment.” Students in those programs who meet the scholarship requirements would continue to receive state scholarship dollars, but students in other programs would not enjoy the same access to that pool of funding.

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The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity projects that finance and business professionals, teachers, marketers, and HR specialists will see strong employment growth through 2028. That projection matches closely with the National Center for Education Statistics’ data on the unemployment rate for new graduates: Nursing, teaching, finance, and business majors have some of the lowest unemployment rates among their peers with bachelor’s degrees. Graduates who majored in liberal arts, computer science, English, interdisciplinary studies, and political science, however, face some of the highest unemployment rates. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that jobs for dancers and choreographers won’t keep pace with job growth for other industries, and jobs in touring and performing companies will decrease. Travel agents are also projected to see a stark drop in employment opportunities. Majors that would qualify students for jobs like these are likely to be disfavored by the Board of Governors and State Board of Education as they make the list of approved fields of study.

The Bright Futures Scholarship program is funded by the Florida lottery, and it currently covers 100 percent of tuition and applicable fees at in-state public institutions for eligible students.

Florida students who achieve these metrics but choose to attend private institutions in the state may also receive scholarships, though they are valued at a set dollar amount and not a percentage of the overall cost of attendance. 

Legislators opposed to the bill told WKMG-TV that they put liberal arts at an undeserved disadvantage and that the government ought not to be picking and choosing which majors to favor over the others.

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Paul Cottle, a physics professor at Florida State University, wrote in the Orlando Sentinel that the bill may discourage high schoolers from earning college credit through AP courses. He says, “if SB 86 is signed into law as it is now written, students who pass the AP Physics 1 exam in high school will suffer a reduction in the number of college credit hours their Bright Futures scholarships will pay for.”

State Sen. Dennis Baxley, who introduced the bill, told WJAX-TV, “As taxpayers, we should all be concerned about subsidizing degrees that just lead to debt, instead of the jobs our students want and need. We encourage all students to pursue their passions, but when it comes to taxpayer-subsidized education, there needs to be a link to our economy.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito