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Changes for Bright Futures eligibility to come in 2013

The Florida Bright Futures program will implement changes to the eligibility requirements for the 2013-14 school year, but if these changes were currently in effect, more than half the freshman class would not meet eligibility requirements for the scholarship.

Paul Dosal, vice provost for student success, said he finds the changes alarming, and that access for higher education for students across the state is going to be threatened.

You can imagine how I feel when 86 percent of our freshmen this year received Bright Futures, and if those eligibility requirements go up that much, we know a lot of our students who wouldve qualified for it who no longer will, Dosal said.

Dosal said about 47 percent of the 2012-13 freshman class would not meet eligibility requirements for the Bright Futures program if the changes being implemented in 2014 were in effect during the 2011-12 school year.

Students who have already been granted the award will continue to receive it until they graduate.

Changes include the test score requirements for both the Florida Academic Scholars (FAS) and the Florida Medallion Scholars (FMS) programs.

To receive the FAS award in 2013-14, students will have to score a composite score of either 1290 on the SAT math and critical writing sections or 29 on the ACT, as opposed to the 1270 on the SAT or a 28 ACT composite required now. FMS recipients will be required to score an 1170 composite on the SAT or a 26 composite on the ACT as opposed to 980 on the SAT, or a 21 ACT composite required now.

We look at a large number of criteria when admitting students, and SAT and ACT (scores) are just one of them, Dosal said.

According to the USF New Student Profile, the average SAT composite score for this years class of incoming freshmen for the USF System was 1191, and the average ACT composite was 27.

Dosal said he also felt that more emphasis should be placed on financial need when evaluating Bright Futures eligibility.

Ive long been an advocate for adding a financial need component to the Bright Futures program. I think thats a better approach to addressing the financial problems that the program has, Dosal said. The state is looking for ways to control the growth, and theyve tried to do that by raising the eligibility requirements. I prefer to control the growth by allocating it to students who demonstrate financial need as well as the academic credentials.

Erica Everett, a freshman majoring in mass communications, said she is thankful for the scholarship money she has received from the Bright Futures program. Everett is a recipient of the FMS award level, she said.

Bright Futures, alongside with my Florida Prepaid plan, has made it so I dont have to pay for anything out of pocket for school quite yet, which is helping me out, she said. I dont think they should be bumping up the scores. Its competitive enough to get into college, and now its becoming harder to also get money for it. Its ridiculous.

Everett said she is concerned for her younger sister, who will graduate from high school in 2015.

Its going to suck for my sister, Everett said. Im not sure if she will do well on the tests, and she doesnt have Florida Prepaid, so Bright Futures is all that she will be relying on to go to school.

Olga Saniukovich, a sophomore majoring in biomedical sciences and a recipient of Bright Futures at the FAS level, said the changes to the program will be beneficial and will challenge students in future school years to raise their academic performance.

I have a younger brother who is in the seventh grade, so he will be graduating in 2018, she said. Hes a pretty smart kid so I dont think it will be too difficult for him, but hell have to try harder than I did. I dont think it will make much of a difference because hell have to push while he is in school, and so I dont think it will have any negative impacts at all.

Everett and Saniukovich both graduated from high school in spring.

For now, Dosal said the university will stay focused on their student success initiative, and will continue to enroll students who are academically, socially and financially prepared for success.

Were going to find a way to make sure our students have its financial needs met, and try to adjust our financial aid programs, he said. Were not going to be the only university screaming. Students across the state are going to be screaming, because thats a big cut. … This is an issue that students around the state should rally around. Its too important to their future and the future of the state.