Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida lawmakers weigh income limits, higher test scores to trim Bright Futures costs

The state has spent nearly $3 billion in Lottery revenue for the popular Bright Futures merit scholarship program since it started in 1997. That's the size of the budget deficit lawmakers are facing in 2010-11.

So legislators crafting next year's higher education budget are considering changes — some of them significant and controversial — to the program.

Among the options outlined during a meeting of the Senate higher education budget committee Thursday: Raise the required SAT and ACT scores and grades to qualify (saving as much as $20 million) — a move that's been batted down for many years because it would shut out a significant number of minorities.

Lawmakers could limit participation by setting a family income threshold or save as much as $33 million a year by reducing the maximum number of credit hours covered for students who come in with, say, 30 hours of high school advanced placement credits. And they could eliminate the ability of students who lose Bright Futures because of poor college grades to get the scholarship back (saving at least $4 million).

But given that Bright Futures is such a sacred political cow, the real question is how far will lawmakers go in an election year.

"There seems to be a desire to do something," said Senate budget chairwoman Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach. "I don't think we have consensus yet on which ones, but we need to do something."

Parents and students have come to depend on it, and until the past few years, legislators were loathe to mess with it — in spite of long-running concerns about mediocre academic standards for eligibility, and resulting rising costs to the state.

More than 95 percent of incoming University of Florida freshmen are on Bright Futures, and most of the freshmen at Florida State University and the University of South Florida get the scholarship.

Lawmakers in the past few years have started to tweak the program — passing bills that kept the award amount flat even as tuition rose, and requiring students to pay back any Bright Futures-covered classes that they drop late in the semester.

"Any change we make, we have to look at how it would affect students, and above all will it still encourage students to go to college in Florida, which was always the aim?" Lynn said. "We'll have to see if people are willing to do what's best for students and for the state … or are they going to play politics?"

Gerard Williams, a student at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, cautioned lawmakers against making changes that could make college unaffordable for low-income students. He is attending Santa Fe on a local scholarship and grants, but he has many friends who depend on Bright Futures.

"They're looking at this as just numbers and money, but they need to look at us as real students," Williams said. "Education is the wrong place to be looking at to save money."

Florida lawmakers weigh income limits, higher test scores to trim Bright Futures costs 02/04/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 4, 2010 9:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  2. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber

    World

    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  3. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant

    Nation

    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]
  4. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]
  5. How the 2018 NHL All-Star Game reflects Jeff Vinik's vision for Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There were several reasons the NHL announced Monday that Tampa will host the 2018 All-Star Game on Jan. 28.

    This was the  logo for the 1999 NHL All-Star game played Sunday, Jan 24, 1999 at the Ice Palace in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo)