Bright Futures Scholarship Program
|Type||Merit based Scholarship|
|Florida Department of Education|
|$226 million (2016)|
The program funds three scholarships, available to Florida residents who attend a Florida high school and an eligible Florida post-secondary institution.
- Florida Academic Scholars: Requires a minimum weighted GPA of 3.5, an ACT composite score of 29 or SAT combined reading/math score of 1290, and 100 volunteer service hours.
- Florida Medallion Scholars: Requires a minimum weighted GPA of 3.0, an ACT composite score of 26 or SAT combined reading/math score of 1170, and 75 service hours.
- Florida Gold Seal Vocational Scholars: Requires a minimum weighted GPA of 3.0; available to students pursuing a career education or certificate program. The Florida Gold Seal CAPE Scholars program funds up to 60 credit hours for a bachelor of science or bachelor of applied science program following completion of the corresponding associate's degree.
Award amounts are set by statute each year. In the 2016-17 year, Academic Scholars receive up to $103 per credit hour per semester, Medallion Scholars receive up to $77 per credit hour per semester, and Gold Seal Scholars receive up to $48 per credit hour per semester.
The Bright Futures Scholarship was meant to emulate neighboring state Georgia's HOPE Scholarship. Originally the Program disbursed just above 42,000 scholarships for about $70 million. At the program's peak in 2008, it provided scholarships to 39% of Florida high school graduates, including 94 percent of incoming freshmen and 70 percent of all undergraduates at the University of Florida.
The program was solely based on academic merit and not on financial need. At its height in 2008, the program was criticized for subsidizing the education of students from wealthy families using lottery proceeds collected largely from lower-income individuals. UF Chief Financial Officer Matt Fajack criticized the program for keeping state university tuition artificially low, since any tuition raise would mean that the state would have to spend more money to cover scholarships under the program.
The Florida Legislature enacted cuts to Bright Futures funding in 2011 by increasing the minimum SAT score required to qualify for the program. The changes took full effect for the graduating class of 2014, increasing the minimum score for A students from 1280 to 1290, and increasing the minimum score for B students from 980 to 1170. The cuts disproportionately impacted black and Latino students as well as students from predominantly poor schools. By the 2015-16 school year, the program covered only 20% of Florida high school graduates and paid an average of $2,000 per year.
In 2014, the United States Department of Education launched an investigation of the Bright Futures program due to allegations of racial bias against black and Latino students, focusing particularly on its effects on students from Miami-Dade County and at Florida International University. The department ultimately found evidence of disparate impacts on minorities but no evidence of discriminatory intent.
- "Bright Futures Student Handbook - Chapter 1: Initial Eligibility Requirements" (PDF). Office of Student Financial Assistance, Florida Department of Education. October 24, 2016.
- "Bright Futures Student Handbook - Chapter 2: What You Need to Know Now that You are Eligible" (PDF). Office of Student Financial Assistance, Florida Department of Education. July 1, 2016.
- "Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Disbursement History" (PDF). Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program.
- Carter, Cathy. "Negron Eyes Bright Futures As Key To Senate's Ed Plan". WLRN. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
- Stewart, Thomas. "UF official says Bright Futures may be adding to budget woes". The Independent Florida Alligator. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
- "Popular Bright Futures Penalizes Needy Florida Students, Critics Say". Associated Press. September 21, 2008. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
- McGlade, Caitlin; Travis, Scott. "Minorities, poor hit hardest by stricter Bright Futures requirements". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
- Smiley, David (March 22, 2014). "Feds investigate Florida's Bright Futures scholarships". The Miami Herald. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
- McGrory, Kathleen (January 22, 2015). "Gov. Scott proposes Bright Futures expansion but doesn't address criticisms". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2017-01-04.