On the Issues

UCF and Higher Education

Bright Futures/Sunshine Scholarship

Carlos graduated from UCF in 2003 and himself understands how important access to scholarships and financial aide is to students who may not otherwise be able to afford college or a university. Bright Futures helped Carlos pay for tuition at UCF — without it he wouldn’t be where is today.

Nothing would do more to bring opportunity to young men and women in Florida than to make affordable college education at public universities available to everyone. It’s that simple. But access to higher education is not a reality for too many of Florida’s working families. The legislature’s failure to invest in the Bright Futures Scholarship Program is part of the problem.

In 2009, Republicans in Tallahassee slashed Bright Futures scholarships in half. In the first year after the cuts, 47% of Latino freshmen and 62% of Black freshmen were no longer eligible for Bright Futures. Funding has increased some since then, but too many students are excluded since the legislature has refused to realign ACT/SAT requirements back to what they were before 2009. As a freshman lawmaker, Carlos introduced the ‘Restore Our Bright Futures Act’, which dramatically expanded the number of eligible students for Bright Futures and increased reimbursement for Medallion and Academic scholars. Though the bill did not pass as originally written, parts of the bill became law, including the enactment of 100% tuition reimbursement for Academic scholars.

In 2020, Carlos co-sponsored legislation to create the needs-based ‘Sunshine Scholarship’ Program, which would fully cover tuition and fees for Florida resident students who pursue associate degrees or career certificates at state colleges or career centers operated by school districts and maintain full-time enrollment with a 2.5 GPA. Proposals like these move Florida families towards debt-free college solutions and will help put an end to the crushing burden of student loan debt that afflicts moms and dads, and their sons or daughters.

Student Equity: Financial Aid for DACA/TPS Students

During the 2019 and 2020 session, Carlos introduced new legislation extending Bright Futures and state-based scholarships for Dreamers and TPS students. Carlos believes it is in our state’s best interest to help these students succeed– NOT create obstacles to their academic achievement. Undocumented students who graduate from high schools in Florida already receive in-state tuition rates thanks to a law passed by the legislature in 2014. Approximately 27,000 DACA recipients and 45,000 TPS holders who legally reside in Florida deserve a fair and equal chance at an affordable college education. That’s why student government associations across Florida, including UCF SGA, identified Carlos’ bill as a legislative priority and travelled to Tallahassee to lobby for its passage.

Affordable Student Housing

Housing insecurity is a major issue for college students in East Orlando and across Florida. That’s why Carlos has championed affordable housing as a top priority. Thanks to Carlos’s advocacy, the legislature fully funded the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust fund for the first time in decades in 2020.

COVID-19 created new and frustrating housing challenges for students living or planning to live in off-campus housing. As university classes moved to online instruction and the pandemic turned campuses into ghost towns, many students vacated their apartments to stay at home safely with their parents. In April, Carlos began hearing from students and parents desperate for protection from corporate landlords who refused early lease terminations due to COVID-19 and threatened students to pay up. As always, Carlos stepped in to become their champion!

During this pandemic, corporate landlords at off-campus student housing properties have continued to engage in predatory practices to take advantage of students stuck in leases they no longer need. We will continue to urge Governor Desantis to take executive action to help these students and encourage landlords and property managers to be flexible with students who cannot pay due to COVID-19.

During this pandemic, corporate landlords at off-campus student housing properties have continued to engage in predatory practices to take advantage of students stuck in leases they no longer need. We will continue to urge Governor DeSantis to take executive action to help these students and encourage landlords and property managers to be flexible with students who cannot pay due to COVID-19.

Carlos Delivers for UCF Restores!

Since his election in 2016, Carlos has delivered a total of $3 million in funding (from appropriations bills he introduced) to UCF Restores PTSD clinic to expand their program and to provide direct services to veterans, first responders and mass shooting survivors from Pulse and Parkland struggling with PTSD. We are proud of Dr. Deborah Beidel and of the work her and her team do every day to help those with PTSD.

Make It Easier for Students to Vote!

After years of pleading with university leaders and elections officials to do so, in 2018 Carlos helped secure an official Early Voting location on campus at UCF so that students, professors and faculty could easily and conveniently exercise their right to vote. Carlos has long believed that university leaders should encourage student participation in elections to help establish an early sense of civic responsibility in young people. In the last election, Carlos even led a UCF march to the polls with Senator Bernie Sanders!

Defending Our Knights

In 2019, Republican lawmakers weaponized the misappropriation of funds for UCF’s Trevor Colbourn Hall, as an excuse to attack our university. One GOP lawmaker even threatened to shut UCF down for 5-10 years! As a member of the Higher Education Appropriations Committee and as a proud UCF Knight, Carlos defended our campus community (who had nothing to do with spending problems) and he refused to take these attacks on his alma mater. Watch video of Carlos responding to shutdown threats on UCF.

Fee Waivers for Graduate Students

Too many graduate assistants are living in poverty in part because they pay exorbitant fees for the privilege of working for and teaching at a university. In 2020, Carlos co-introduced legislation to require that universities waive ‘student fees’ for a graduate student with a 0.25 full-time equivalent appointment or greater as a graduate assistant, graduate research assistant, graduate teaching assistant, graduate research associate, or graduate teaching associate.

Honoring Eternal Knights Taken at Pulse Nightclub

In partnership with UCF and artists Michael Pilato and Yuriy Karabash, Carlos played a direct role in helping to commission a permanent mural to memorialize Christopher (Drew) Leinonen and Juan Ramon Guerrero, UCF Knights who were killed during the attack at Pulse Nightclub on June 12, 2016. The on-campus mural outside the student union is a powerful tribute to their memories and a reminder that love can always wins.

Keep Guns Off College Campus

Even before his election to the Florida House in 2016, Carlos had been a leader for common sense gun safety laws. That’s why he has continued to OPPOSE legislative efforts to allow students to carry guns on college campuses.

The police chiefs and university presidents of all 12 of Florida’s universities oppose campus carry. They oppose it because they know concealed weapons would make Florida’s college and university campuses less safe.

College campuses along with bars, schools, courthouses, polling places, airports and athletic events are all places where concealed weapons in Florida are banned — and for good reason. Students today deal with high stakes academic pressure, combined with the increased risk of suicide, and widespread drug and alcohol abuse. Adding deadly weapons to the mix can have disastrous consequences.

Concealed-weapon permit holders in Florida are not required to undergo extensive training and therefore lack the skills to prevent a mass shooting. In fact, they are more likely to shoot innocent bystanders than is law enforcement, making these situations even more volatile and dangerous.

Access to guns will also result in more fatal suicide attempts. Making firearms readily available to college students makes it likely that more of the 24,000 unsuccessful suicide attempts each year will instead be fatal.