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Senator Harrell, District 25 — Press Release


April 14, 2016

CONTACT: Holly Demers, (772) 219-1665

Governor Signs Legislation Naming the Florida National Merit Scholar Incentive Program after Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto

Stuart —

Governor Scott today signed House Bill 7029, Education, a comprehensive education policy package. The legislation amends numerous sections of the education statutes pertaining to postsecondary education performance funding, K-12 education policy and funding, school choice, and school construction. Additionally, the legislation renames the “Florida National Merit Scholar Incentive Program” as the “Benacquisto Scholarship Program,” and requires all eligible state universities to become college sponsors of the National Merit Scholarship Program.

“This important scholarship creates an incentive for Florida’s top students to attend college in the Sunshine State and I am pleased to see it named after Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto whose tremendous idea made this program possible,” said Senate President-Designate Joe Negron (R-Stuart).

“What started out as an idea in the Appropriations Committee two years ago, is estimated to grow into a program serving more than 700 students during the 2016-17 school year and nearly 1200 students within the next five years,” continued President-Designate Negron. “Our goal is to keep talented students in Florida, not only to complete their higher education, but eventually to use their skills in meaningful careers that make an impact in communities across our state. I am grateful to Senator Benacquisto for bring this idea forward and thrilled to see the program bear her name.”

In 2014, the Florida Senate passed and Governor Scott signed into law legislation that rewards Florida high school graduates who receive the National Merit Scholar recognition or the National Achievement Scholar designation and who, beginning with 2014-2015 academic year, enrolled in a degree program, certificate program or applied technology program at an eligible public or private postsecondary educational institution in Florida. The award these students receive covers the entire cost of attending a public university in Florida. Specifically, the award Benacquisto Scholars receive is equal to the highest cost of attendance at a public university in Florida, minus the sum of the student’s Florida Bright Futures Scholarship and National Merit Scholarship or National Achievement Scholarship. Students can also use their scholarship funds to attend a private school located in Florida.

For more information, including a detailed summary of House Bill 7029, please visit


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