A bill going through the Florida state Legislature amending Bright Futures scholarship requirements may disproportionately cut opportunities for minority students.

In 1997 Bright Futures cost $70 million, last year it cost $429 million. And in an effort to keep the program solvent, the Senate Higher Education Appropriations Committee passed Senate Bill 1344 in a Friday vote of 4-1. 

The legislation would raise scholarship requirements for SAT scores.

By 2014, the requirements would increase 20 points to 1290 for the Academic Scholar award.

The legislation would add 80 points to the 1050 required  for the Medallion Scholar award.

The higher score requirements would save the state an estimated $8 million in 2013 and $100 million by 2018, but 30 percent fewer students would qualify for scholarships, according to the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government.

The bill would have the largest effect on minority students.

Up to about 49 percent of African American students and 37 percent of Hispanic students who now qualify for Bright Futures would not qualify for the scholarship award in 2014 based on current test scores.

Democratic Sen. Dan Gelber, of Miami Gardens, was the only senator to vote against the bill.

“The economy has created a huge increase of Floridians who want higher education,” Gelber said. “I don’t think they should be stiff aimed.”

Gelber said the new rules were long-term changes for short-term budget problems, and instead of cutting the scholarship the state should consider closing tax loopholes.

“There are plenty of places we can go to find money, and I think the priority has to be education,” Gelber said.

In addition to tougher qualifications, the bill would limit the length of time students can use the scholarship from 7 years to 4 years.

It would also end scholarship restoration if a student loses it for academic reasons.

According to UF spokesman Steve Orlando, the proposed tougher Bright Futures requirements probably wouldn’t affect future UF students due to the fact that most UF students already have the higher SAT scores.

Currently 95 percent of freshman and 77 percent of all undergraduate students at UF have Bright Future scholarships, according to Orlando.

In addition to the scholarship changes, the bill also would allow UF to implement block differential tuition, which would charge full-time students the same tuition rate  regardless of how many credits they enroll in .

According to Orlando, a block tuition rate would encourage students to graduate more quickly and increase revenue for the school.

The committee’s bill analysis estimated block tuition would generate more than $2 million in the first year of implementation.

The legislation must pass two more committees before coming to a full Senate vote.

(16) comments


God forbid we raise standards across the board.

We have reached a point where you have to decide whether you wish to work toward equality of opportunity or equality or outcome.

Only one of those goals is truly fair.

Why not deal with the real issue -why certain minorities are scoring disproportionately low- instead of artificially bolstering and elevating inferior students.

The paternalistic mindset that lower standards for certain minorities are not only acceptable but NECESSARY...it plays a large part in keeping these groups academically mired in perpetuity.

This seems to be the new, politically correct "white man's burden" - where it is now acceptable -even "compassionate"- to look down on certain minorities as incapable of meeting standards we set for ourselves. The sheer hypocrisy of the progressive is baffling in this respect.


I'm so tired of the argument that any educational changes would "disproportionately hurt minority students." I think this article looks at the minority effect from the wrong angle. Standards ought to be risen for Bright Futures and programs should be implemented to understand why minorities might under perform and try to correct that issue. Easier said than done. I know, but the state should not continue to reward mediocrity. Standards for awards such as the Bright Futures should not be maintained at low levels to satisfy an idyllic notion of equality that is really an educational anomaly. Especially with the budget shortfalls the we currently face.

I would have raised the GPA standards for the awards instead of the SAT standards, because GPA's represent the full breadth of a high school students academic work. Regardless I feel that this is a step in the right direction.

Final Note: Myself and my two brothers are Cuban-Americans with an immigrant father. We have all been awarded full Bright Futures. A scholarship award which has been diminished, because crowding and fiscal problems.


Honestly, this is just a question, not a provocation :

Would the argument that it affects minorities more be quieter if the upped the standards for BOTH awards equally? For example up it 40 points for both the medallion and the scholar award?


Why put such a "hurting the minorities" spin on this article? The Miami Herald reported on this issue without making it the predominant theme. Raising the standards is a great idea when faced with a red line budget - much better than other committee members' idea of slashing all BF scholarships by 6%. Face it, Bright Futures is a merit based scholarship, that's the beauty of it! The government is awarding young people for being successful! This is one of the few times the government will give you (not take) money regardless of your demographic/race/sex. Raising the bar on the scholarships needs to be done to ensure Florida retains the brightest students in our state.


Personally, I think its commendable that Sen. Gelber stood up against this bill. As someone who works directly with kids in a social services setting, I'm in and out of schools every week and you'd have to be blind not to notice the severe inequities (equipment, teacher quality, safety, etc.) in our public education system. Raising the standards, which I don't disagree is a good idea in theory, implies these kids are graduating with equal preparation and that's just not the case. Fix the system and then do what you want the scholarship. I don't understand why the books always have to be balanced on the backs of children and teachers. In a state where we are at 11.9% unemployment, the last thing we need is a less educated population.


Personally, I think it's commendable that Sen. Gelber stood up against this bill. As someone who works directly with kids in a social services setting, I'm in and out of schools every week and you'd have to be blind not to see the severe inequities in our public education system. Raising the standards, which I don't disagree is good in theory, implies that these kids are graduating with equal or even comparable preparation and that's just not the case. Fix the system and then do whatever you want with the scholarship. I don't understand why the books always have to be balanced on the backs of children and teachers. In a state with 11.9% unemployment the last thing we need is a less educated population.


First of all, in most schools around the country, people leave college with $40,000-$80,000 of college debt. I think people in Florida need to realize this, as schools such as Penn State cost $12k a semester for in-state tuition and people are crying and complaining. Teachers have to get paid. It takes money to upkeep a beautiful campus like ours.

Now I wouldn't be opposed to the federal government kicking in some money for every American to go to college (maybe pay 60%), but the people in Florida need to wake up and smell the coffee that there's no free lunch, the money has to come from somewhere. And all these free handouts which are unheard of in 80% of the country are hurting the class sizes, quality of instructors, and money used for the campus.


Bright futures should be need based:

The majority of people paying into "Bright futures" are poor people gambling
The majority of students cashing into "Bright Futures" are UF students who have an average household income of >$100,000

So, If we are taking the money for education from the poor people, shouldn't we give it back to them?


Biomedic, you miss the point of Bright Futures: to help middle class families that don't qualify for need based scholarships to pay for college. There are PLENTY of need-based scholarships. If you are poor and have decent grades, there is a scholarship for you. But, for those families that are not poor enough to qualify for a need based scholarship, yet probably can't dish out the few thousand dollars for UF tuition per semester (in addition to living expenses, another few grand a semester), Bright Futures is the only way those families can afford to send their children to an in-state, public college/university.

And a household income of $100k? If it is a two parent household, that means that each parent is bringing in $50k each, perhaps $60k-$70k if you mean $100k after taxes. Well that is certainly well off, that is definitely in the realm of middle-class, and it would be a strain on even that income to pay for a student's education and other expenses, which very likely include other children. That's about the range a teacher or government worker makes, to put it in prospective. Not starving, but not rolling in it.

And you morons, do you forget that the scale of the SAT went up? I am old, but isn't it out of 2400 or something now?? Even if it was on the old scale, a 1290 is below the median to even be accepted to our school. 1050? I could walk in and take a poop on the test and get a 1050. Either way, if the total maximum score went up, shouldn't the requirements reflect that inflation? Duh.


Ultimately it is a huge insult to minority students since others assume that because of their racial backgrounds they are unable to achieve higher scores to qualify for the Bright Futures Scholarships. I have been in education for 20 years- the only way we continue to improve education is to raise the bar, not lower it. The Bright Futures was never intended to be a need based scholarship, it's intent was to keep the best and brightest right here in the state of Florida. That is exactly what has happened! Kudos to Bright Futures. I say continue to raise the bar- those who really need the scholarship will be incentivized to work harder to EARN it!!


I went to a public school much like many of these kids who claim that the bar is being raised too high. I scored a 1360. Spend less time complaining and more time reading your textbooks, and you could do the same.


I would like to know why this headline focuses on minorities losing Bright Futures. Clearly, if the requirements are raised, many students will lose scholarship money, not just minorities.


I don't believe many that have posted comments realize the different scholarships awarded within the Bright Futures. Those that received the Academic Scholarship receive more than those that receive the Medallion Scholarship. Students attending a University such at UF are the best of the best and needed to meet the requirement of that University which also qualified most of them for the Academic Scholarship. However there are many students that are attending Community Colleges on Bright Futures Medallion Scholarships that may not have gone on to further their education at all had they not receive the scholarship. Since this is not need based the only requirements are excelling in school which sounds as those all have equally opportunity. I understand were the author of this is coming from. Schools with in this state are not offering equal education and that is proven by the FCAT scores which tend to be lower in minority areas. In some ares the fact that a student makes it to school is an accomplishment. My outrage is the reason this is being done, not to up the standard but to reduce the amount of money going to education. Whenever there needs to be a cut it is education that suffers first! I support having as many students possible further their education be at at the University Level or Community College. DON"T CUT BRIGHT FUTURES.


GatuhFootbawl: The new test is 2400 but it is because it includes a writing section. The Bright futures scores do not include that section, only the verbal and the math which still sums up to 1600. In addition, the scores are not PER test. They take the highest math score you receive in combination with the highest verbal score you receive. You can, in theory, study for math for one exam, bomb verbal and then do the reverse the second time and come out with a decent score.


Also, I would like to comment that Bright Futures is not meant to be need-based. The fact that is supposedly cuts out the poor is a non-issue. It is meant to keep the smartest and brightest Florida students IN FLORIDA. It's sole goal is to keep them from going out of state to a school that will pay their way through college. In this sense, I think it is about time they raised the standards.


Except that people who are getting it are using it and many of them leave to other states because of the lack of opportunities in Florida. So in result, the state of Florida pays for their education for free then they leave and move Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Dallas, etc.

The program isn't going to keep these people "in-state" when it's mostly just tourism and minimum wage work.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language. Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated. Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything. Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person. Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts. Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.