Saturday, January 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: College financial aid needs a rethink

The U.S. Department of Education's investigation into whether Florida's Bright Futures scholarships are structured so that they discriminate against Hispanic and African-American students should be useful. Another study already has predicted tougher standards would result in fewer scholarships for minority students. But the investigation by the department's civil rights office also should spur a broader state review of how this state awards financial aid to college students.

Florida's financial aid policy should have a coherent, two-fold purpose: making college affordable for promising poor students who couldn't otherwise pay, and offering the best and the brightest an incentive to stay in state to avoid a brain drain of top talent. Bright Futures does neither.

The state's system of need-based aid is woefully inadequate. And the achievement-based scholarship — Bright Futures — does not meet the Goldilocks test. It is not "just right." It freezes out too many poor and minority students with its rising SAT score cutoffs. But the requirements are too low for many affluent students who can afford test prep courses and typically have the advantage of better schools.

Family income and SAT scores are highly correlated. In effect, Bright Futures has become a way to cut the cost for better-off families who could afford college even without the scholarship's help. But the standards also don't separate the great student from the good one. And that means there is less money available for those who truly need it.

The University of Florida offers an example of the math. It estimates that a student entering this fall will owe $20,870 (of which only $6,630 would be tuition and fees). Even the top level of Bright Futures — the Academic Scholars — now pays about $3,100. That doesn't make much of a dent in the total price, and it is not going to make the difference between a poor student heading to Gainesville or staying home.

And yet Florida has become so selective that a vast majority of its admitted freshmen (85 percent) had straight A averages or better as well as high test scores. In fact, only 51 students were admitted with GPAs below 3.3. Basically, if you qualify for admission to UF, you qualify for Bright Futures. That's not a good system.

A Times/Herald report points out that at Florida International University, where about three-quarters of students are black or Hispanic, more than eight in 10 incoming freshmen once qualified for Bright Futures. Yet this fall, under the new minimum SAT score of 1170, FIU expects that only about 14 percent of its freshmen will qualify.

Bright Futures, for all of its popularity, is a program with problems: It's expensive for the state because so many qualify. Yet because it maxes out at a relatively low amount, it doesn't really help those who need it the most, and the top award is too small to keep the brightest students from entertaining better offers from out of state.

Spurred by the revived investigation by the federal Education Department's Office of Civil Rights, the state should rethink its system of financial aid. Give money to those who truly need it — those who qualify for admission but can't afford to attend. Give meaningful money to the academic stars you want to keep in state. But stop trying to meet both goals with one flawed program.

Comments
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18