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USF joins the rally in Tally

A group of USF students will be making their way to the Florida state capital early today in order to let legislators know about their concerns to keep university funding, among other things, as their top priority.

The group of about 25 students will drive to Tallahassee for a rally organized by the Brighter Futures Foundation, an organization that fights to keep the scholarship fund, the pre-paid program and the university enrollment fund alive.

Established in 1997, the Bright Futures Program uses state lottery revenue to award college scholarships to Florida high school graduates who meet certain academic standards. About 41,000 students received the scholarship in its first year in 1998. More than 98,000 received it in the 2001-02 school year.

Bright Futures pays 100 percent of tuition at state universities for high school graduates with 1270 on the SAT or 28 on ACT and 75 hours of community service in addition to a 3.5 grade point average. The program pays 75 percent of college tuition for students with a 970 SAT or a 20 on the ACT and a 3.0 GPA.

The rally in Tallahassee was organized by Sen. Ken Pruitt, R- Port St. Lucie along with the Bright Futures Program.

Last fall, Pruitt toured the 11 state universities and 28 community colleges around Florida in an effort to raise awareness about state funding to public education, particularly public universities.

Pruitt stopped at USF in November to promote the scholarship program.

“We are all going up there (to Tallahassee) with the other 11 state universities,” said Omar Khan, student body president. ”

Khan said the moderately-size group of students will be traveling to the state’s capital to emphasize the importance of the Bright Futures scholarship program at USF.

“We’ll have a fair amount of students,” Khan said. “We’re trying to get as many students as possible because it’s important to give students a voice in the political process.”

Pruitt said his office, which organized the rally, is anticipating a great crowd of students today along with education advocates.

The rally will be held at the steps of the Old Capitol building around 1 p.m. And according to Pruitt, the rally will consist of various speakers who have been personally affected by the scholarship fund and the pre-paid fund.

Miss America Ericka Dunlap is a Bright Futures recipient from the University of Central Florida and will be one of the keynote speakers at the gathering. In addition, there will be some testimonials from other Bright Futures students and parents who are utilizing the pre-paid programs for their kids.

“We want to make sure the Legislature understands the importance of providing a college education that is affordable and accessible,” Pruitt said. “That will be the key message: affordability and accessibility.”

The Legislature will vote next week on Gov. Jeb Bush’s budget proposal, including funding for programs such as Bright Futures.