Lights dim on Bright Futuresby John Kennedy | March 23rd, 2011
A House panel advanced a plan Wednesday that dims the lights on the state’s popular Bright Futures scholarship program — making the merit-based college aid harder to get and less lucrative for students and their parents.
As part of spending cuts coursing through most state programs, top tier Bright Futures recipients would have to earn a 1300 SAT score, up from 1280 now. Second-tier “medallion” students also would need a 1270 SAT, up from 1020 currently, under the House’s $5.7 billion college and university budget proposal.
Community service hours needed to qualify for the scholarships also would be bumped up, according to the House approach.
Bright Futures’ overall allocation would be cut 15 percent, or $33.8 million. With the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee also authorizing tuition hikes of as much as 15 percent, parents will be digging deeper for Florida college costs next fall.
Chair Marlene O’Toole, R-The Villages, acknowledged that trimming back Bright Futures would be another blow to many Floridians already struggling in a lousy economy.
“It’s a pretty rough economic time,” O’Toole said, pointing out the state is facing a budget shortfall of almost $3.8 billion. “It is what it is. It’s not like we went in and slashed and burned without reason. We didn’t have the dollars.”
Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature’s ruling Republicans have touted education as key to Florida’s economic turnaround. But budget proposals show schools, colleges and universities all absorbing big hits.
Among the House cuts reviewed Wednesday are reductions in such financial aid programs as the Florida Resident Access Grant (FRAG) and ABLE Grants, which assist students going to private schools and for-profit colleges. State dollars to historically black colleges and universities also are slashed 23 percent, to $7.3 million.