Florida’s lottery-funded scholarship program, Bright Futures, has helped more than 600,000 students attend Florida colleges, according to the Florida Lottery website.
But the wide eligibility is about to be trimmed with new guidelines aimed to keep the program afloat. The changes are scheduled to take effect July 1, 2013.
Under the new criteria, high school seniors graduating at the end of the 2013-2014 school year will have to score an 1170 on the SAT and a 26 on the ACT. The current scores for eligibility are 1020 on the SAT and 22 on the ACT.
The heightened standardized test score requirements will reduce the number of students eligible for Bright Futures’ financial assistance, particularly minority students.
According to a study from the University of South Florida, trends in previous test scores show that the new criteria will most harm Hispanic and black students.
The Florida College Access Network, a statewide network that aims to improve college preparation, access and completion, issued a press release from the study’s findings.
In fall 2012, between 7,000 and 7,500 Hispanic freshmen met requirements for Bright Futures. Under the new criteria, between 2,700 and 3,000 would be eligible in fall 2014, a drop of more than 60 percent.
Black students would be affected even more. In fall 2012, about 2,700 black freshmen were awarded Bight Futures, but with the new rules, 650 would qualify in 2014. That’s a decrease of more than 75 percent, compared to the 41 percent decrease white freshmen would see.
Although the new criteria would reduce eligibility across the state, the majority of students at the University of Florida would still qualify. Between 65 and 90 percent of UF’s students would be granted Bright Futures under the new rules, according to the press release.
UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said the scariest part of these changes to Bright Futures is the threat of not having it at all.
“Had the changes not been made, the entire program could have been lost,” she said. “It was unsustainable. It was costing an enormous amount of money to the state of Florida.”
UF freshman Sydney Madrigal said she feels lucky she did not have to meet the new requirements.
“I don’t think I would be here right now if I didn’t have Bright Futures because my parents pay for everything else and just getting that help with the tuition made it,” she said. “I probably would be going to a community college or somewhere more local if I couldn’t get Bright Futures.”
Sikes said the Bright Futures scholarship is not based on student needs.
“You get rewarded on merit, so that’s the program,” she said. “It is not need-based.”