Two weeks after the drop-add period means course expenses are in full effect. Charges and payments are around every corner, but one seems to be hitting students harder this Fall.
On April 30, Florida legislators voted to eliminate the annual $600 textbook stipend normally included in the Bright Futures Scholarship Program. Many UF students were unaware of this change in funding.
The UF Bookstore offers a $600 educational expense allowance that acts as a deferment option for students to use as a loan to be paid back once financial aid has been disbursed. This option led many students to believe it was equivalent to the $600 received from Bright Futures or additional aid given to them from the bookstore.
“The $600 was never given as a credit at the bookstore for students to charge against,” UF spokesperson Hessy Fernandez wrote in a statement. “This has been a source of confusion in the past.”
Daniela Casillas, a sociology sophomore, understood that the $600 from the bookstore was just a loan, but used it thinking it would be reimbursed by her Bright Futures scholarship.
“It wasn’t really made clear to me that that no longer existed,” Casillas said. “I had heard from other friends, ‘Oh, we don’t have that anymore. It doesn’t exist,’ and I didn’t really understand what was going on.”
Casillas said she used the money from the bookstore in the Summer and Fall semesters not realizing she would never get the money back through her scholarship.
“It was just a very frustrating experience; very confusing that just suddenly out of nowhere there was one less thing I could count on,” she said.
Casillas said it would have been helpful to receive an email clearly stating the changes.
Students at Florida State University received an email from the university’s financial aid office July 16 explaining that funding for Bright Futures is determined annually, and this year it was decided the semesterly $300 for textbooks would not be included, Rachel Sneed, an FSU biology senior, said.
“There’s probably some students that struggled with getting their textbooks this year,” Sneed said. “If I had no idea that was happening and I went to UF, I’d probably been like, ‘Alright, I’m going to skip out on that this year.’”
Once the change to Bright Futures was finalized April 30, the stipend was removed from the awards. Students received the standard email alert that notifies them about any adjustments made to their accounts and prompts them to view the change on their ONE.UF, Fernandez said.
Additionally, the Preview presentations to incoming freshmen and the Office for Student Financial Aid and Scholarships’ website included the change, Fernandez said.
Despite these efforts, numerous UF students were still left scratching their heads.
“I didn’t feel alone in the situation,” Casillas said. “It kind of amplified how I felt because it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s not just me,’ so many people are impacted by this, and so many people rely on that kind of scholarship money.”
Contact Elena Barrera at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @elenabarreraaa.
Elena is a second-year journalism major with a minor in health sciences. She is currently the University Administration reporter for The Alligator. When she is not writing, Elena loves to work out, go to the beach and spend time with her friends and family.