A Bright Future for Some

Topics: State University System of Florida, Florida, Bright Futures Scholarship Program Pages: 7 (2714 words) Published: March 7, 2011
A “Bright Future” for Some

“’There’s a lot to be said for receiving aid because you worked hard for it,’ said Florida state representative Marti Coley.” While this is true, how hard do you really have to work to maintain a mere 3.0 high school grade point average and score a 20 on the ACT (a score that wouldn’t even grant you admission to many universities)? For some, a lot of work may be required, but these below-national-average scores will currently guarantee you a “Bright Futures” scholarship funding 75% of your tuition to a Florida public university if you are an in-state resident. That sounds like a good deal, right? For the many Florida families who have taken advantage of this scholarship, they would definitely agree. Though this scholarship is highly praised, it also has its opposition, and rightfully so! The Bright Futures scholarship program has helped hundreds of thousands of students, but at whose expense? I believe if we look at all aspects of the program including the criteria, funding, who is being affected, and the long-term consequences, most will agree that changes must be made in order for the program to continue being successful.

One of the main arguments against the scholarship is that the qualifications are too attainable. To receive a Bright Futures scholarship funding 75% of a student’s tuition, the SAT score necessary is a 970; however, Florida’s average SAT score as of 2007 was a 993, while the national average stood at 1017 (Braun 5). How can Florida legislators continue to regard this scholarship as one of “prestige” if these mediocre standards are glorified? It is proven that if the bar is set low, many students will only strive for that minimum. The Bright Futures scholarship was originally intended for the best and brightest students of Florida, but as test scores have gradually increased, the scholarship requirements have not. Frank Brogan, currently the president of Florida Atlantic University, is a former lieutenant governor who, along with many others, had a hand in creating the Bright Futures program. Brogan admits that their intent was for the standards to increase over time (Braun 3). Just a few months ago he said “The SAT score and GPA should not be static. They should incrementally increase over time, but the politics of the thing took over and for a variety of reasons that never happened.” Bill Kaczor, Associated Press writer said, “There has also been some talk of toughening the standards, but that’s gotten nowhere.” Kaczor and Brogan are referring to the same problem: The program has gained infinite popularity around the state and anytime legislators try to touch it, it causes an uproar. “That means anyone who touches it will suffer a quick political death” (Kaczor 2).

Many of the arguments against Bright Futures are intertwined, such as the low standards and the funding crisis. Because the requirements are so low, there is an abundance of people acquiring the scholarship, which means that the lottery is being forced to fork out more and more money every year. According to statistics, when Bright Futures began in 1997, a total of 42,319 scholarships were awarded, costing the Florida lottery $69.6 million. 2008 statistics show that the amount of Bright Futures scholarship recipients has more than quadrupled to 169,895 costing an estimated $436.1 million! (Braun 5). That’s SIX times the original amount in just one decade! Some estimates show that the Bright Futures scholarship could cost the state an estimated $867 million by the year 2017 (Miller 2). With lottery revenues already struggling…? This may seem like the burden falls on the lottery, but Florida’s public universities are the ones truly suffering from the Bright Futures program. “As the state copes with budget cuts, resisting tuition increases to avoid further expenses hurts public universities the most, since state funding and tuition are their primary sources of revenue” (Braun 2). The legislators who control...
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