[UPDATE] Future Dimmer For Bright Futures Scholarship

By: Lilly Rockwell, The News Service of Florida; AP Email
By: Lilly Rockwell, The News Service of Florida; AP Email

[UPDATE] Tallahassee, Florida - May 3, 2011 -

Students eligible for Bright Futures scholarships next year will see their awards slashed by 20 percent in the biggest cut to the popular college aid program since its inception.

Under a budget deal lawmakers agreed to late last week, Bright Futures awards will be cut 20 percent per student. Lawmakers also agreed to raise the number of community service hours students have to complete to be eligible for a scholarship, and will start requiring students to complete a federal financial aid form to get a scholarship.

Lawmakers say these cuts were a necessary evil in a difficult budget year.

“This is the worst budget we’ve ever had, ever since I’ve been in the Legislature, let’s see, 18 years,” said Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, the head of the Senate higher education budget committee. “The revenue to the state is extremely low and everyone in every sector of the state will have to lower their budgets from where they were.”

At the same time that the state’s popular student aid program is being cut, lawmakers also want to raise tuition by 8 percent, giving universities the option to hike tuition another 7 percent above that amount. Florida’s in-state tuition is one of the lowest in the nation and universities have used double-digit increases in a bid to move closer to the national average.

Opposition to the cuts in the higher education budget has been muted. Even many Democrats, who in general oppose the Republican-written budget, say they understand the decision to cut Bright Futures.

“It’s a good program, but I don’t think it really meets all the needs it should be meeting,” said Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa. “The students that really need it are not able to receive it.”

Some critics of Bright Futures believe it favors students that don’t need help paying tuition because it’s based on merit, not need.

Many lawmakers said they would support adding a needs-based component to the scholarship. Requiring students next year to fill out the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid to get a Bright Futures is a small step toward gathering the data as a possible precursor to adding that needs-based component.

“The whole purpose of merit was to make sure we have more students stay in Florida, go to school in Florida, graduate and then remain at getting jobs here,” said Lynn, indicating she wouldn’t support a needs-based component.

The merit-based scholarship program was established in 1997 to prevent a brain drain of Florida students to out-of-state colleges. It has largely achieved that goal, with over 180,000 students last year, up from the roughly 42,000 students who applied during the program’s first year.

This is the third year average awards for the Bright Futures scholarship will drop. The program gives students who receive certain SAT scores and grade point averages a scholarship to use for college.

Last year lawmakers agreed to a $1 per credit hour drop and toughened eligibility requirements. Several years ago the Legislature also voted to stop paying the full tuition cost with Bright Futures awards.

Spending on Bright Futures peaked at $429 million in the 2008-09 fiscal year with an average student award of $2,533. This year, lawmakers decided on a budget of just over $350 million for Bright Futures.

That means students who were eligible for the Academic Scholars award of $1,875 for 15 credit hours this year would receive only $1,500 for 15 credit hours next year. Students receiving the Medallion Scholars award this year got $1,410 for 15 credit hours; next year they will get $1,128 for the same amount of hours.

These cuts are a compromise between Senate and House positions. The Senate originally wanted a steeper cut of $1,000 per award while the House suggested a cut of roughly 15 percent.

Students question whether cuts to Bright Futures will eventually unclog the brain drain, tempting students away from Florida. Florida A&M University graduate student Gallop Franklin, the head of the Florida Student Association, said it’s time for “a complete restructuring” of Bright Futures.

Franklin said that since Bright Futures was changed two years ago so that it no longer covers the full tuition cost, it has not proved as valuable to students. He supports adding a needs-based component.

“It’s not meeting the needs and it’s not providing the type of support for students it did years ago,” Franklin said.


Tallahassee, Florida - April 25, 2011 -

The Florida Legislature is poised to cut the popular Bright Futures scholarship program, meaning thousands of college students and their parents will be paying higher costs

Cuts to the merit-based scholarship program would come as the Legislature is also raising tuition at public colleges and universities.

The House-passed budget would cut Bright Futures scholarships from between $330 to $480 annually. The Senate version would slash everyone by $960.

The program is funded by the Lottery. It started in 1997 to stem a "brain drain" of top Florida students to out-of-state colleges.

The grants to in-state public and private schools are largely based on students' entrance exam scores.

About 180,000 students now receive the scholarship. The average scholarship covers 52 percent of tuition and fees.

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  • by connie Location: fort lauderdale on Jun 6, 2011 at 12:57 PM
    Read an article, said only the poor buy lotto. Well then I guess I am poor. My husband and I never got a college education, just worked hard. I guess you could call me middle class. Got my daughter prepaid at six weeks old. Wanted her to have more choices. She is going to a Florida college this year, thanks to prepaid. I heard they want to discontinue this also. Read an article from Palm Beach paper, saying only the poor play lotto. Not true middle class play too. So I guess as I was a cashier seeing all the food stamp people (that I supported) playing lotto, getting free baby formula, and driving away in the BMW will get the Bright Futures. Not the hard working middle class.
  • by Diana Thiemer Location: Alaska on May 5, 2011 at 10:21 AM
    I agree with Fred on his account! I also feel that our Criminal Justice System needs a SERIOUS make-over! I feel somewhat hopeful as new graduates into the system will make a difference!!! We, as a SOCIETY, need to take a VERY GOOD LOOK at the breakdown of the FAMILY UNIT! The breakdown of the "FAMILY UNIT" has effected the SOCIAL STRUCTURE of our society in a very negative way! My hope for the future would be that we are able to reach children in crisis and are able to help redirect them before they enter the Justice System!!! A wise man once said "an ounce of PREVENTION is worth a pound of CURE, does anyone remember this? Let's stop reinventing it! And a BIG "Thank You" to Benjamin Franklin for that one :) With the breakdown of our FAMILY STUCTURE, the lack of funding to our schools from PRESCHOOL to HIGHSCHOOL & beyond, and the lack of EFFECTIVE services for ALL people (BOTH parents, children, the siblings, the aunt & uncles and grandparents) at the hands of DOMESTICE VOILENCE we are sentencing our people to a sentence far more horrific than any prision term! I am not Fred's wife.... I use to be his daughter.
  • by Anonymous on May 3, 2011 at 10:54 AM
    Get a job and pay like many others do! I worked full time and took 12 to 15 hours every semester.
  • by Jay Location: Over Round Home on May 3, 2011 at 09:51 AM
    bright futures has been cut to 70% already,get real folks. Lots of people enjoy being lied to made a fool of and like the end result of making their children hurt and pay for their folly. Maybe these are the people who need to be tested for drug use/abuse made to pay for test and not allowed to vote if test is positive. Elections have consequences and some one should pay for the mess in Tallahassee right now.
  • by anonymous on May 3, 2011 at 09:33 AM
    Can anyone tell me what minimum grade point average is required and what SAT scores a student must have to earn the Bright Futures Scholarship?
  • by Anonymous on Apr 26, 2011 at 09:51 PM
    This was originally a merit based scholarship which had adequate funding until the lottery funds were misappropriated. It should be returned to it's original purpose. Otherwise we risk becoming another state with a poorly educated work force and are unable to attract industries outside the tourist sector.
  • by Democrat Location: USA on Apr 25, 2011 at 03:48 PM
    Rick Scott thinks that rich whiteys are the only people who need educations.
    • reply
      by anonymous on May 3, 2011 at 09:36 AM in reply to Democrat
      Democrat: What a terrible comment to make that is based only on "feelings" and not on fact. Any student who makes the required grade point average and SAT scores qualifys for Bright Futures. You need to go back to school and get an education so you can read the facts.
      • reply
        by Student on May 3, 2011 at 12:24 PM in reply to anonymous
        Yes, it is a merit-based scholarship. But if you take away this merit-based scholarship or cut it down to a pittance, it's not going to be the rich white students whose daddies bought them two BMWs who suffer. It's going to be the poor students, many of whom are minorities. For example, I am already in debt from student loans to cover excess costs, even though I was promised "100 percent Bright Futures" when I graduated from high school with a 1400 SAT score, a 4.0 unweighted GPA, and a 31 ACT score. Now, that "100 percent" actually covers less than half of my tuition: tuition costs are $195/credit, Bright Futures now covers a maximum of $76/credit. I already work a minimum wage job (the only one I can get without a college degree) to cover the cost of living. How am I supposed to pay for the $120/credit my "100 percent" scholarship won't pay for?
  • by Anonymous on Apr 25, 2011 at 10:16 AM
    Those who have supported this conservative majority must understand there is NO MORE bright future for any of the poor and vanishing middleclass. College degrees are not needed to fill $8.50 per hour McD jobs or any others that are being done by illegals or green card workers.
  • by Reagan Republican on Apr 25, 2011 at 09:37 AM
    I definitely DO NOT agree with this legislation. Call your representatives and voice your opinion!!! How are there problems with the Bright Futures budget when it is in direct correlation to the FL lottery revenue???
  • by lynn Location: Tallahassee on Apr 25, 2011 at 08:47 AM
    Please consider the kids, DO NOT CUT OUT BRIGHT FUTURE, the future of these kids are at your mercy. THANKS
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