Changes in Bright Futures

This school year, the most recent changes to Florida Bright Futures will come into effect. The changes will most likely cause the number of college freshmen receiving the award to drop to half; poor and minority students, according to analysis by an administrator from University of South Florida, will suffer the most.

In order to reduce costs, Florida lawmakers increased the SAT and ACT test score requirements for Bright Futures, which makes the scholarship more difficult to achieve.

In order to qualify for a Bright Futures Florida Academic Scholars award (the most selective Bright Futures scholarship), students must earn a score of at least 1290 on the SAT or 29 on the ACT. In 2012, students needed a 1270 on the SAT or a 28 on the ACT. To qualify for the Florida Medallion Scholarship (what more students qualify for), students now must earn a minimum score of 1170 on the SAT and 26 on the ACT. The minimum GPA requirement will remain at 3.00.

Since 1997, Bright Futures has focused on encouraging student achievement, making college more affordable, and persuading Florida’s top students to stay in state.

Even though Bright Futures is funded by state lottery games, which are mostly funded by Floridians who are poor, uneducated, or minatory, recipients of the awards are most likely to be college-educated students who come from upper-income white households. This situation was dubbed “the reverse Robin Hood effect”.

As a result of the changes, the total number of college freshmen recipients will decrease from 30,954 to 15,711, an approximate 50% decrease. Hispanic recipients are projected to decrease by more than 60% and black recipients by more than 75%.

Miami-Dade is also the largest Florida county to receive the most amount of damage from the changes – scholarships will drop by almost 64%. In Broward, scholarships will drop by about 55%.

Back in 2008, during its peak, one in three Florida graduates qualified for a Bright Futures scholarship. According to estimates made by the Florida College Access Network, only one in eight students will qualify under the new changes.

Throughout the years, Bright Future scholarships were criticized for “being too easy to obtain.” As a result, lawmakers wanted to reward only the “best and brightest” students and prevent them from attending out-of-state colleges.  An American Institutes of Research study showed that students who met the lower end of the scholarship requirement were less likely to finish college than those students who had higher GPAs and SAT and ACT scores.

The push has also countered college admissions officers nationwide. The exams tend to favor wealthy students because they have the supplies and resources available to help them prepare for the exams.

Now, the program has become much more exclusive. As a now merit-based program, it is not focused on expanding access to high education, which was its initial goal.

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