Bright Futures Scholarship Program
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|Type||Merit based Scholarship|
The Bright Futures program allows Florida high school seniors with significant academic merit to earn a scholarship to any public college/University in the state. It also offers the same funds to students attending a private college in Florida. This scholarship does not apply if the student chooses to attend college outside the state of Florida and the scholarship may only be earned while in high school. There are also retention requirements in both G.P.A. and credit-hour academic load.
The program is divided into 3 types of grant and is designed to meet needs of three distinct groups in Florida higher education. As of the 2011-2012 academic year, each pays a fixed amount award to a specific recipient group. The Florida Academic Scholars (FAS) program (formerly known for paying 100% of tuition and mandatory fees) pays the highest amount of any award. It was conceived at helping the high school "A-Student" afford a 4-year degree and pays $101 per semester credit-hour. The Florida Medallion Scholars (FMS) program (formerly known for paying 75% of university or 100% of community college tuition and fees) was designed to motivate high school "B-students" to strive for College as well and pays $76 per credit-hour. The final program, the Florida Gold Seal Vocational (GSV) scholars program was designed to facilitate a post-high school vocational degree and also pays $76 per semester credit hour. All payments mentioned are for work done at 4-year universities. Other rates apply at different institutions, like community colleges. There is also a new program awarding extra funds to the top scholar in each school district.
A SAT score of 1270 (counting only the critical reading and mathematics sections) or ACT composite score of 28, minimum weighted high school academic GPA of 3.5 and 100 hours of community service is required to earn a FAS Award. The testing requirements will increase to a 1290 or a 29 on the SAT or ACT respectively for the high school class of 2014. The Requirements for FMS are 980 on the SAT or 21 on the ACT and 75 hours of community service. By 2014, the testing requirements on the SAT and ACT will adjust to 1170 and 26, respectively.
The scholarship only applies to undergraduate coursework (unless some graduate level classes are required for a bachelor's degree). Those who complete their undergraduate coursework in seven or fewer semesters may apply up to 15 award hours toward their graduate tuition. Summer semesters are currently not eligible for bright futures funding, even though most Florida Public Universities require at least six credits to be earned through summer study. This requirement can generally be satisfied by Advanced Placement or CLEP examination.
From 1997 through 2007, the scholarships paid fixed percentages of tuition and mandatory fees. FAS (100%) also included a book stipend up to $300 per semester. Beginning with the budget cuts caused by the economic downturn from a slump in Florida's real estate market, the Florida Legislature decoupled tuition from the scholarship by changing the system to pay fixed-dollar amounts. Ideas had been circulated to raise the standards to qualify for the grants, but concerns of impact to minority and disadvantaged students paused such legislation until subsequent budget cuts forced changes. In addition, differential tuition was added as a way to boost funding to Universities. Bright Futures funds were not allowed to cover such costs.
Controversy and Reform Proposals
The Bright Futures Scholarship was first created in 1997, and was meant to emulate neighboring state Georgia's HOPE Scholarship. Originally the Program disbursed just above 42,000 scholarships for about $70 million. Over the last decade the cost for the scholarship has ballooned substantially. The Scholarship is solely funded by lottery proceeds, and was appropriated 329.4 million through the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund for 2012-13. It was appropriated even less in FY 2013-14 for $303.8m. Families that before could count on tuition, fees and books being covered are now paying for books and fees and over half of tuition. The average Florida Legislature member's net worth averages between $1.7 million to $3.4 million.  A University of South Florida analysis predicted that the new Bright Futures standards would benefit far fewer students — the total number of college freshmen getting scholarships at state universities would drop by about half, from 30,954 to 15,711. The analysis predicted Hispanic students would see a 60 percent drop in scholarships, and black scholarship recipients would plummet by more than 75 percent.
Before the Great Recesssion, Bright Futures received 26% of Lottery Funds in 2006-07. In the 2013-14 budget, it will receive 18% of the Lottery Funds. Much of the Lottery Fund is not being used to pay debt service for bonds on Lottery Funds.
While many types of controversy have existed over the course of the program's existence, the Legislature's excuse is that Bright Futures is solely merit-based in its award determination. This allows students whose parents could afford the tuition and fees to receive the funding over needier students. They state there are myriad programs designed to assist the poor and first-generation-in-college student on federal, state, and institutional levels. The cost of college is now largely in living while in school as food, rent, and books cost far more than tuition and mandatory fees. As a result, the scholarship may not be as impactful as it would be in a higher-tuition state.
^ 1. The GPA used to calculate for Bright Futures eligibility is not the same as what a high school student might have for his or her current GPA. The GPA is calculated by just using the "core classes" which are the classes that are required for graduation.
^ 2. Just like the Gold Seal Vocational Scholars Award, the high school GPA is calculated by "core classes"
^ 3. Criteria for GPA is the same as the criteria for the Florida Medallion Scholars Award.
- Office of Student Financial Assistance. "Renewal Requirements for Bright Futures Scholarships". FL Dept. of Education.
- Office of Student Financial Assistance. "Florida Bright Futures Program Fact Sheet". Florida Dept.of Education. Retrieved 2011-09-28.
- Office of Student Financial Assistance. "Florida Legislative Session 2011 Updates and Legislative History". FL Dept.of Education. Retrieved 2011-09-28.
- Naplesnews.com article about costs
- Sun-Sentinel article about problems
- Expensive Program
- Kaczor, Bill. "Cuts Likely for Bright Futures Scholarships". Miami Herald. Retrieved 2011-09-28.
- FSU office of FInancial Aid. "Cost of Attendance: Fall 2011/Spring 2012". Florida State University. Retrieved 2011-09-28.
- Bright Futures website
- Bright Futures causes budget woes
- History of the scholarship
- Medallion Scholarship