Bill would reduce Bright Futures awards

By Michael Noble
Contributing Writer

Florida’s “Bright Future” is beginning to dim. As the result of state budget woes, legislators have proposed restrictions that would likely reduce the number of students receiving the Bright Futures Scholarship.

“The amount of students receiving the award next year will be significantly lower,” said Joseph Bryan, a part-time counselor for Palm Beach Atlantic University.  “It’s because the state of Florida is falling into major debt, and it’s a problem.”

Bryan is a guidance counselor at Calvary Christian Academy in Fort Lauderdale, and previously worked with PBA Admissions.  He commented on legislation still under consideration by state lawmakers.

The Florida Senate has passed a bill containing a number of provisions to tighten the belt of the Bright Futures budget.  The House may come up with a different version.  That means the ultimate impact won’t be known until a final version makes it through a House and Senate conference.

Under the Senate plan, students could only receive the scholarship for four years, instead of the seven years currently allowed.  Students would also have to get higher SAT scores to qualify for the scholarship.

There are two levels of the scholarship, based on SAT scores. Students now qualify as Florida Academic Scholars by scoring 1270 on the SAT.  That qualifying score would rise to 1290 under the Senate plan.

Florida Medallion Scholars must now score 970 on the SAT, and that score would increase to 1050 under the plan.  Those increased score requirements would be gradually phased between 2011 and 2013.

“To my knowledge the current rates that students receive from Bright Futures will not change until we are notified,” said Bryan. “Institutions won’t be notified until the first of July.”

Currently 740 PBA students receive Bright Futures funds.

Bryan, who previously worked with PBA Admissions, says that his involvement with high school families allows him to help students who are enrolling in college to become better informed on scholarships and tuition fees.

Palm Beach Atlantic Financial Aid Counselor Geneveve Gort explained Bright Futures sets a static rate of $95 per credit hour for the Gold Medallion Award, and a $126 cap for Florida Academic Award winners who plan on attending college.

To put it shortly, Gort said “the student will receive a fixed amount that will depend on the student’s academic performance, whether they are in the 75 percentile or 100 percentile.”

Under the Senate plan, Bright Futures would only help pay for eight semesters of college. So if a student is behind a projected schedule for a four-year career, anything over eight semesters would not be eligible for scholarship funding.

The plan would not allow students to restore Bright Futures scholarships after losing them, though there would be exceptions for military service and documented emergencies.

The Senate plan also would offer incentives to students who graduate college early thanks to such things as advanced placement courses and dual enrollment.  The plan would require the SAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

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