After much debate, it seems the fate of the Bright Futures Scholarship Program may finally be decided. Luckily for Florida high school students, the eligibility requirements won’t change much. They just might become a little stricter. Also, the scholarship program will continue to encourage merit-based achievement instead of awarding scholarships based on financial need.
This decision by Florida lawmakers was a favorable one because the Bright Futures program is one of the few federal scholarships that awards academic achievement alone. While a student may not qualify for financial aid, some middle-class families find tuition costs difficult to pay. Keeping this scholarship program completely merit-based will ensure that hardworking students can afford to go to college and will stay in Florida for their post-secondary education.
The Legislature was looking to revise eligibility requirements because the state needed to save money. More than 120,000 Florida students have been awarded 75 or 100 percent scholarships from the program and the cost to fund the scholarships increased annually from $131 million in the 2000 school year to $174 million in 2002. For the 2003-2004 for year, expenditures are expected to rise to $233.5 million
The House Subcommittee on Higher Education proposes increasing requirements for the Florida Medallion Scholarships (formerly Florida Merit Scholarship). The scholarship presently awards 75 percent scholarships to those who have a 3.0 re-calculated GPA and a score of a 970 on their SAT or a 20 on their ACT.
The panel wants to save $14 million by increasing the qualifying score to 1050 for SAT or 22 for ACT. This was a good decision because so many students were receiving the scholarship in previous years, it was as if everyone expected it. Also, this brings the qualifying SAT score above the national average of 1020.
Overall, if these changes are approved, everyone will benefit. The state will save money and students will still have a merit-based scholarship option. They just have to work harder for it.