Effective this fall, the Florida Legislature voted to change the standard for Bright Futures’ award amounts, credit requirement and repayment.
Bright Futures is a scholarship program for Florida residents sponsored by the Florida Lottery.
Senate Bill 1696- Conforming Bill states recipients will now be responsible to repay the institution for a dropped class funded by Bright Futures and will now receive a reduced award amount.
Dorothy Henderson, dean of the school of general studies, said it is important for students to be aware of the changes, especially freshmen.
“Students need to get into these classes, stay in these classes and pass these classes,” said Henderson.
Henderson said they have been making students aware of the changes in orientation and during adviser visits.
“Students usually wait to after midterms to withdraw from classes,” she said.
Under the Florida Department of Education Office of Student Financial Assistance, additional changes were made through Senate Bill 2600 – General Appropriations Act.
Bill 2600 reduced the Bright Futures scholarship award amount.
According to www.floridastudentfinancialaid.org, students receiving the Medallion or Gold Seal Vocational scholarship will only receive $95 per credit hour compared to the previous $126.
These scholarships used to cover 75 percent at an in-state public institution like Florida A&M and Florida State, and 100 percent of tuition at any in-state community college like Tallahassee Community College.
This means Medallion and Gold Seal Vocational recipients now have to pay the remaining amount out-of-pocket or with other aid.
The difference is $465 per semester for recipients.
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 of $300 per semester.
First-year student Jerelle Avery said incoming freshmen got the short end of the stick.
“I know I could never afford to drop any class because I know I couldn’t pay it back,” said Avery, an 18-year-old biology student from St. Petersburg.
Marquena Boyd was aware of having to pay back the money from a dropped class but not of the award decline from Bright Futures.
“I knew you had to pay for the classes you dropped,” said Boyd, 18, a nursing student from Fort Lauderdale. “But this is my first time hearing about the decrease in the award.”
The act also states that students are no longer 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 and still receive the award.
Gracie Peterman, 21, a fourth-year chemical science student at Florida State University was affected from a shortage of completed credits in past school years.
“I was two credits short,” she said. “My net check was extremely lower this semester and it will be next semester, too.”
This change for example means in a student’s final year, the first semester can be 15 credit hours and the last semester can be nine credits as long as it meets the 24 credit hours in a year.
Boyd said she thinks the changes are fair because a full load of classes every semester may not be practical.
Bright Futures recipients who do not meet the new credit hour renewal requirements will have the opportunity to restore their award in a subsequent academic year.
For more about the Bright Futures program, go to www.brightfutures.org