Dim Futures

In 1997, the Florida Legislature created the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program. Funded by the state lottery, legislators deliberately modeled it after adjacent Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship. Bright futures originally provided essentially free tuition to high-achieving Florida high school student who went to public college in-state.

And then it ran into the same problems HOPE had recently; state colleges got too expensive, and lottery revenues didn’t increase to make up the difference.

And so Florida is cutting the benefits associated with the program. Students now have to have higher grades and standardized test scores to qualify for the program, and the program provides less money.

In addition, according to an article by Nathan Crabbe at the Ocala Star-Banner:

Florida college students are being required to do more to obtain Bright Futures scholarships and will get less from them, a trend that will continue over the next few years.

One of the latest requirements, effective Friday, is that students must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid to receive the scholarships. While the top scholarships once completely covered state university tuition, tuition increases and caps on award amounts mean that students now have to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket.

What’s odd about this is that it doesn’t seem that the FAFSA form is actually being used to determine financial need. According to the article, students “must submit a complete, error-free Free Application for Federal Student Aid in order to receive both initial and renewal Bright Futures scholarships.” It appears this is just adding a deliberate layer of red tape in order to discourage people from applying.

So, is the future still looking bright?

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