Full Tuition for Bright Futures: What Students & Parents Need to Know!
In the state of Florida, high achieving students have been rewarded with a state scholarship called Bright Futures. Funded by the Florida State Lottery since 1997, Bright Futures has been through several reiterations with its peak being in 2009 when it provided scholarships to 39% of Florida high school graduates. The program, since its inception, has solely been based on academic merit and not on financial need. However in 2011 with budget cuts throughout the state, Bright Futures scholarship tightened its requirements by increasing the standardized test scores and grade point average, which only allowed 20% of Florida high school graduates to meet the new requirements. Since then there has been discussion that the state funded scholarship does not go far enough in keeping Florida’s high achieving students in state or reduce the heavy burden of rising tuition costs.
In January, several bills were put through the Florida Legislature, that sought to increase Bright Futures funding for high school students in two ways. Representative Amber Mariano (R-New Port Richey) introduced a bill that would help alleviate the financial burden placed on students enrolled in Florida universities (Kauffman, 2017). She proposed that there should be a summer Bright Futures that included the scholarship funding for summer sessions, as well as for fall and spring. A second bill was aimed at restoring full funding for the Florida Academic Scholars (FAS), or the top tier of the Bright Futures scholarship, for those who qualify with a 29 ACT/ 1290 SAT and a 3.5 weighted gpa. This new legislation will cover 100% tuition and fees to Florida university-bound students, as well as a $300 textbook allowance, comparatively to the current level of about $3,000 annually or $103 per credit. The new requirements would affect about 45,000 academic recipients for the 2017-2018 school year, with an estimated $151-180 million price tag for the state (Clark, 2017; Postal, 2017; Sweeney, 2017).
What does this new legislation mean for Florida students and parents?
With now the state legislature agreeing to pay 100% tuition and a $300 book stipend for high achieving students, it is now, more than ever, worth aiming for the top-tier. Here are some key things you should know about HOW to receive this scholarship.
For more information see the Bright Futures website for eligibility requirements.
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With the increased funding, aiming for the test scores of 29 ACT or 1290 for SAT is important. Here are some things to note:
a. Bright Futures will accept either test, so my suggestion is to take both and see which you score higher and that should be the one you retest on.
b. Bright Futures also uses what is called a SuperScore, meaning if you take the test more than once, they take the highest score from each section to create a new score.
c. Bright Futures also allows you to test all the way through high school, from 9th until 12th grade with the last test being from the June testing date.
d. Extra attention to these scores with one-on-one support or online courses should be highly considered. There are multiple program out there like Khan Academy’s free SAT Prep, or ACT’s Test Prep for $39.99.
Bright Futures is calculated on a recalculated gpa, similar to how universities do it (see article here). They take the highest gpa from each core area to meet the high school requirement, as well give added weight to honors, AP, IB, Dual-Enrollment, AICE, and other more rigorous courses.
a. For example, a student needs 3 science credits to graduate. If they take Environmental Science (A), Biology (A), Chemistry (A), and Physics (C), Bright Futures take the 3 highest grades (A,A,A) and drops the one that is not needed for graduation (C) because it was extra.
b. This means a student, if they take MORE core classes than needed, are rewarded by having more opportunities to receive the gpa requirement.
For the top tier, 100 community service hours needs to be completed by the student throughout their high school years. It should be pre-approved by the school and often paperwork needs to be filled out to be submitted (see the school counselor for more information).
a. Approved service hours may now include business or government internships, work for a nonprofit community service organizations, or activity on behalf of candidates for public office. However, service hours cannot be used if credit was earned through service-learning courses. (http://www.floridastudentfinancialaid.org/SSFAD/home/latestInfo.pdf_
While the new legislation will have a positive impact on many students, students need to start preparing earlier to reach the top-tier. As well, it will still be beneficial to look for other scholarship sources available to meet the other financial costs of post-secondary education, such as room and board, fees, and other expenses. The Guide to Scholarships explains other scholarship opportunities that all students can receive.
For more information on scholarships and financial aid, plus other important information about the Florida University & College System buy the new College UnMazed Guidebook today!!
Clark, K. (2017, March 9). Senate votes to give college students more money in Bright Futures, financial aid. Miami Herald, Retrieved from http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article137560513.html
Postal, L. (2017, January 24). Florida Senate looks to boost Bright Futures scholarships. Orlando Sentinel, Retrieved from http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/education/os-florida-senate-bright-futures-scholarships-20170124-story.html
Sweeney, D. (2017, May 5). Few bills pass as Legislature wraps up 2017 session. Orlando Sentinel, Retrieved from http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/florida-politics-blog/fl-reg-florida-legislature-what-passed-what-failed-20170502-story.html