Students gathered in the SGA senate chambers Wednesday for a town hall meeting about the possible elimination of the Bright Futures Scholarship Program.
Beth Kennedy, representative of the Florida Student Association, said the program’s outcome would affect all students who go to school in Florida.
“Ninety-four percent of students receive Bright Futures in one way or another,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said chances of Bright Futures total elimination are “highly unlikely,” but there is still a cause for concern.
“Everyone is a little more worried because Gov. Jeb Bush was re-elected and he doesn’t have to worry about getting elected again,” Florida Student Association representative Beth Kennedy said.
Since its inception six years ago, Bright Futures has provided several scholarships. In 2002 the organization provided over $244 million in scholarships, an increase of approximately $170 million from $75 million in 1997.
In an effort to conserve money, the state legislature is considering extensive alterations to the scholarship requirements. Kennedy said the only money from Florida’s gambling population would be saved.
“The (scholarship) money comes directly from the Florida Lottery,” Kennedy said.
For every dollar spent on a Florida lottery ticket, 38 cents goes to public education. Of that, 7 cents is allotted for Bright Futures.
Bright Futures pays from 75 percent of tuition and fees to qualifying students to 100 percent, during the fall and spring. It stopped paying for summer classes in 2002 because of increasing costs.
“I think that the legislature is not recognizing that it’s a two-way street as far as the fact that students have to take nine hours during the summer and they don’t fund Bright Futures during the summer,” said freshman senator Ramon Alexander, a political science student from Tallahassee.
“They’re disregarding their responsibilities and mandating that the students must be on the campus taking those classes.”
Kennedy said FSA, along with some 2000 students from around the state, will rally at the capitol to make sure the program has a future for qualifying students.
“It’s going to be huge,” Kennedy said.
The rally is set for Feb. 13 at 2 p.m. on the steps of the old capitol. SGA President Andre Hammel said there would be shuttles at McGuinn Hall.
“We want to save the program,” Hammel said. “We want to be proactive, not reactive.”
Tanya Caldwell can be reached at Tanya_Caldwell@yahoo.com.