Bright Futures raising criteria, dropping students

Alyssa Elso/Staff Writer

If the upcoming changes to the Bright Futures Scholarship Program were in effect now, 74 percent of FIU students would not qualify for the scholarship.

Starting in the fall 2013 semester, Bright Futures will require high school students to score higher on the SAT and ACT exams in order to receive the state-funded scholarship. While the minimum high school GPA requirement will remain 3.0, starting in fall 2013 the minimum ACT score will increase from 21 to 22 and the minimum SAT score will increase from 980 to 1020.  By fall 2014, the minimum ACT score will jump to 26 and the minimum SAT score to 1170.

According to an analysis performed by J. Robert Spatig, assistant vice president for admission, recruitment and enrollment planning at the University of South Florida, in which he compared current student data from all state universities against the new Bright Futures requirements, Miami-Dade will be the most affected county in the state, hitting the poor and minority students the hardest.

The new change will cause a drastic drop in the number of college freshmen eligible to receive Bright Futures, as the USF analysis performed by Spatig has predicted.

“Last year 7,680 incoming students received Bright Futures,” said University Provost Douglas Wartzok. “Of our current students, 74 percent would not have qualified for Bright Futures, had this new requirement previously been in effect.”

After comparing the analysis with the University’s figures, Wartzok confirmed that by fall 2014, 74 percent of Hispanic students, 81 percent of African-American students and 65 percent of white students will not qualify for a scholarship.

Two Democrats have filed a bill to prevent thousands of students from losing out on Bright Futures scholarships, but its chances of moving forward are slim, as neither bill has been scheduled for a hearing.

“Current students at FIU will not be affected by the changes to Bright Futures, but come fall 2013, 15 percent of students will not qualify for the scholarship with an even greater percentage unable to qualify by fall 2014,” said Wartzok.

Currently, students who achieve the basic-level Bright Futures Scholarship, also known as Florida Medallion Scholars, are awarded $75 per credit hour, while students who earn the more difficult Florida Academic Scholars award get $100 per credit hour.

According to Wartzok, the University is currently working with Financial Aid to come up with a solution that could potentially minimize the impact the loss of Bright Futures will have on students, but realistically it will not be as rewarding as a Bright Futures Scholarship.

The change to Bright Futures has prospective students, like Monsignor Edward Pace high school junior, Amanda Borimonoff, worried that she’ll be a part of that percentage.

“My parents are counting on me to receive Bright Futures so that I don’t have to take out loans, but I have never been a great test taker and now I have to work even harder to get the scores Bright Futures is asking for,” Borimonoff said.

Bright Futures, funded through the Florida Lottery, has been helping students receive a more affordable education since its inception in 1997.

While students and parents alike may not be pleased with the new changes, assistant professor of History and African & African Diaspora Studies, Alexandra Cornelius-Diallo is disappointed that a scholarship program that has helped so many students receive an education would suddenly shut them out.

“It is a disappointing decision for all students, some students will elect to attend a more affordable college like Miami-Dade and some may even elect to leave the state,” said Cornelius-Diallo. “This change could also discourage students from receiving an education altogether, simply because they cannot afford it, and without a college degree they will have a more difficult time obtaining a high paying job. All in all, the outcome will not be great.”