The 2009 Florida Legislature voted to change the standard for Bright Futures participation. Bright Futures is a scholarship program for Florida residents sponsored by the Florida Lottery.
The changes include students no longer being required to take 12 credit hours each semester to receive the scholarship. They are now allowed to divide the 24-credit hour requirement up into semesters an still receive the award. This is helpful to seniors because this change means that they do not have to be full time their last semester to receive Bright Futures. For example, in a students final year, the first semester can be 15 credit hours and the last semester can be nine credit hours and the scholarship will still cover tuition.
The most detrimental change is students having to repay the institution for a dropped class funded by Bright Futures. This change has already affected hundreds of students who wish to drop a class after the drop/add period. In the future, this will cause Bright Futures recipients to think more in-depth when enrolling in classes.
The most significant change made to Bright Futures are the reduced awards. Students receiving the Medallion or Gold Seal Vocational scholarship, will only receive $92 per credit hour. These scholarships used to cover 75 percent at an in-state public institution like Florida A&M and Florida State University, and 100 percent of tuition at any in-state community college like Tallahassee Community College. These recipients now have to pay the remaining amount out of pocket or with other aid. The difference for many of us, totals about $300 or more.
Students receiving the Academic Scholars award that covers 100 percent tuition at a public in-state institution, will no longer receive their college expense allowance. Many recipients used this allowance to help cover the cost of books.
When I graduated high school last year I was grateful to receive a scholarship that would help pay for my education. I fear that with such drastic changes made just one year later, student financial security is fading. With the cost of tuition, rent, books and other bills growing, who’s to say any of us will be able to afford college.
It is no wonder more and more of my friends and former classmates are back home, and deciding to stay local for college. Meanwhile, the lottery jackpot continues to increase.
Many students are struggling. They are working more than one job to support themselves. Education to many, is important enough that many college students will continue to take out thousands of dollars in loans, just to stay afloat.
These changes are proof that Bright Futures is dying. I predict that there will not be a Florida resident scholarship at all within the next five years. My younger brothers and sisters might not have the same opportunity to attend the college of their choice even with the same grades and credentials I had.
We will have to better prepare for our own children’s future. Bright Futures is great, while it lasts, but we cannot expect for it to live forever.