Group urges more need-based aid
Bright Futures is quite the bonus for Florida residents attending one of the 11 state universities, but it falls short for the most financially needy students, according to a research brief from a group dedicated to improving minorities' higher education opportunities.
ENLACE Florida, the statewide support network funded by the Kellogg Foundation, concluded that the popular Bright Futures scholarship covers only 23 percent of the total cost of attending most state universities in Florida -- yet it accounts for 80 percent of all state-funded aid and largely goes to students who don't need the financial help.
Meanwhile, only 20 percent of the state's aid is need-based. That means many poor students who qualify for Bright Futures don't go to college because they need help paying far more than just the tuition bill, which Bright Futures covers.
The popular program cost about $350-million in lottery revenues last year and covered more than 146,000 students -- up from $75-million for 42,000 students in 1997, its first year.
“Florida can do a better job of investing its scarce financial resources," said Paul Dosal, Ph.D., Executive Director of ENLACE Florida. "Under the current circumstances, a student who has qualified for admission to a state university and earned a Bright Futures Scholarship may not be able to afford to attend that university."
Florida's in-state tuition is the lowest in the country, $2,321 a year including the 5 percent tuition hike that takes effect next month. But with various fees, book costs and housing and food expenses, it costs the average student at USF $16,000 a year to attend. Bright Futures only covers tuition, plus $225 a semester for books and supplies.