Scholarship Program Will Now Bill Students

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Florida students who are members of the state’s scholarship program will now have to pay for dropped classes. According to an article in the Miami Herald:

A new state law requires students with Bright Futures scholarships to repay their award money if they withdraw from a class after the drop and add period — typically about a week into the four-month semester.

While colleges said they sent notices to students warning them about the change, students and families still might get some sticker shock, with bills up to $378 for a typical three-credit-hour class.

Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship program is a merit based scholarship, funded by the state lottery, that provides money to allow Florida high school seniors with academic merit to any attend any public college or university in the state. The scholarship used to pay all tuition and fees at state schools for students with an A average who met the other qualifications for the scholarship. Now the scholarship provides less money.

The state says it loses $32 million in tuition dollars for dropped courses. Students who are not Bright Futures Scholarship recipients have always had to pay to drop courses after the deadline.

While very popular, Bright Futures has been fraught with financial trouble since the state began the program in 1997. Originally the state provided 42,000 scholarships at a total cost of about $70 million dollars. Today about 170,000 Florida students are Bright Futures Scholars; the total cost is $436.1 million. Many argue that the program has become too expensive.

In 2008 the University of Florida’s chief financial officer complained that the scholarship program made it difficult for the school to increase tuition. Unable to increase tuition, schools responded by jacking up fees for services. While keeping down tuition may have been part of the point of the Bright Futures program, in 2007 the St. Petersburg Times called Bright Futures “a 5-ton anchor holding down tuition for public universities.”

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer