Florida Bright Futures Scholarships Dimming

State lawmakers facing tough budget decisions have their eye on the popular bright futures scholarships. The program funds tuition costs for the majority of graduating high school seniors at state universities. Students could see a reduction 20 percent or more next fall.

On average, 88 of every 100 students enrolled in Florida’s eleven Universities have a Bright Futures scholarship. Many students, like Alanna Hammesfahr of Tampa, say they wouldn’t be in college if it wasn’t for Bright Futures.

Reporter: How will you get by with 20 percent less from Bright Futures?
Alanna Hammesfahr; “I’ll probably work more hours at work, which would not be fun.”

Bright Futures stopped paying full tuition two years ago for new students. For the brightest, it now pays $3750. That award could drop as low as $2900 as lawmakers trim the budget. The lower tied scholarships could drop from about 60 percent to as low as 40 percent of tuition.

Rashida Gayle of Ft. Lauderdale says she worked extra hard in high school to get Bright Futures. “You wanted to get the scholarship. That’s what you worked hard for all four years. You know, it’s a very popular program, so everybody knows that that is the one scholarship you’re guaranteed to get if you work hard in school.”

In the past, lawmakers have raised academic standards to try and save money. They’ve required students to take more hours. But never before have they cut the dollars going to bright futures. Critics say the merit based program gives cash to kids would have ended up in college anyway. “I would still be alright, but with a little less spending money for me.”

Some policymakers are now pushing to make the scholarships more needs based. One almost certainty of the 2011 Legislature is that change is coming to Bright Futures.

Lawmakers expect to cut the program up to 100 million dollars this session.

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