(1) As used in this section, the term:

(a) “Department” means the Department of Education.
(b) “Scholarship program” means the Benacquisto Scholarship Program.
(2) The Benacquisto Scholarship Program is created to reward a high school graduate who receives recognition as a National Merit Scholar and who initially enrolls in the 2014-2015 academic year or, later, in a baccalaureate degree program at an eligible Florida public or independent postsecondary educational institution.
(3) The department shall administer the scholarship program according to rules and procedures established by the State Board of Education. The department shall advertise the availability of the scholarship program and notify students, teachers, parents, certified school counselors, and principals or other relevant school administrators of the criteria.
(4) In order to be eligible for an initial award under the scholarship program, a student must meet the requirements of paragraph (a) or paragraph (b).

(a) A student who is a resident of this state, as determined in s. 1009.40 and rules of the State Board of Education, must:

1. Earn a standard Florida high school diploma or its equivalent pursuant to s. 1002.3105, s. 1003.4281, s. 1003.4282, or s. 1003.435 unless:

a. The student completes a home education program according to s. 1002.41; or
b. The student earns a high school diploma from a non-Florida school while living with a parent who is on military or public service assignment out of this state;
2. Be accepted by and enroll in a Florida public or independent postsecondary educational institution that is regionally accredited; and
3. Be enrolled full-time in a baccalaureate degree program at an eligible regionally accredited Florida public or independent postsecondary educational institution during the fall academic term following high school graduation.
(b) A student who initially enrolls in a baccalaureate degree program in the 2018-2019 academic year or later and who is not a resident of this state, as determined in s. 1009.40 and rules of the State Board of Education, must:

1. Physically reside in this state on or near the campus of the postsecondary educational institution in which the student is enrolled;
2. Earn a high school diploma from a school outside Florida which is comparable to a standard Florida high school diploma or its equivalent pursuant to s. 1002.3105, s. 1003.4281, s. 1003.4282, or s. 1003.435 or must complete a home education program in another state; and
3. Be accepted by and enrolled full-time in a baccalaureate degree program at an eligible regionally accredited Florida public or independent postsecondary educational institution during the fall academic term following high school graduation.
(5)(a)1. An eligible student who meets the requirements of paragraph (4)(a), who is a National Merit Scholar, and who attends a Florida public postsecondary educational institution shall receive a scholarship award equal to the institutional cost of attendance minus the sum of the student’s Florida Bright Futures Scholarship and National Merit Scholarship.
2. An eligible student who meets the requirements of paragraph (4)(b), who is a National Merit Scholar, and who attends a Florida public postsecondary educational institution shall receive a scholarship award equal to the institutional cost of attendance for a resident of this state minus the student’s National Merit Scholarship. Such student is exempt from the payment of out-of-state fees.
(b) An eligible student who is a National Merit Scholar and who attends a Florida independent postsecondary educational institution shall receive a scholarship award equal to the highest cost of attendance for a resident of this state enrolled at a Florida public university, as reported by the Board of Governors of the State University System, minus the sum of the student’s Florida Bright Futures Scholarship and National Merit Scholarship.
(6)(a) To be eligible for a renewal award, a student must be enrolled full time, earn all credits for which he or she was enrolled, and maintain a 3.0 or higher grade point average. An eligible Benacquisto Scholar who has fewer than 12 credits remaining to complete his or her first baccalaureate degree may receive funding for one term in order to complete the degree.
(b) A student’s renewal status is not affected by subsequent changes in the residency status of the student or the residency status of the student’s family.
(c) A student may receive the scholarship award for a maximum of 100 percent of the number of credit hours required to complete a baccalaureate degree program, or until completion of a baccalaureate degree program, whichever comes first.
(d) A student may receive an award for up to 5 years following high school graduation and may not receive the award for more than 10 semesters.
(e) A student who receives an award under this program and fails to meet the renewal requirements due to a verifiable illness or other documented emergency may be granted an exception pursuant to s. 1009.40(1)(b)4.
(7) The department shall annually issue awards from the scholarship program. Before the registration period each semester, the department shall transmit payment for each award to the president or director of the postsecondary educational institution, or his or her representative, except that the department may withhold payment if the receiving institution fails to report or to make refunds to the department as required in this section.

(a) Each institution shall certify to the department the eligibility status of each student to receive a disbursement within 30 days before the end of its regular registration period, inclusive of a drop and add period. An institution is not required to reevaluate the student eligibility after the end of the drop and add period.
(b) An institution that receives funds from the scholarship program must certify to the department the amount of funds disbursed to each student and remit to the department any undisbursed advances within 60 days after the end of regular registration.
(c) If funds appropriated are not adequate to provide the maximum allowable award to each eligible student, awards must be prorated using the same percentage reduction.
(8) Funds from any award within the scholarship program may not be used to pay for remedial coursework or developmental education.
(9) A student may use an award for a summer term if funds are available and appropriated by the Legislature.
(10) The department shall allocate funds to the appropriate institutions and collect and maintain data regarding the scholarship program within the student financial assistance database as specified in s. 1009.94.
(11) Section 1009.40(4) does not apply to awards issued under this section.
(12) A student who receives an award under the scholarship program shall be known as a Benacquisto Scholar.
(13) All eligible Florida public or independent postsecondary educational institutions are encouraged to become, and all eligible state universities shall become, college sponsors of the National Merit Scholarship Program.
(14) The State Board of Education shall adopt rules necessary to administer this section.