It's a novel situation for Bright Futures scholarship recipients: Now the students — not the state — must pay if they lollygag and drop a class after the standard drop/add period at Florida public colleges and universities. That's a long-overdue fix to a program that still needs more commonsense adjustments.
Previously, Bright Futures students could load up their schedules with courses and then drop them weeks into the semester and suffer little financial penalty — unlike their nonscholarship classmates. Such a system encouraged students to indulge their whims at the expense of taxpayers and colleges' scant resources. Already, the University of Florida says Bright Futures recipients dropped 32 percent fewer classes in 2009, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.
The change, worth an estimated $32 million annually, is just one step state lawmakers took last spring to reduce the program's costs, which have grown more than fivefold since its inception in 1997. The program's qualifying requirements remain too lax. Any Florida high school graduate boasting a B average and an SAT score just 51 points above the national average can qualify for the "merit-based" scholarship.
But at least now, scholarship recipients must accept the same real-world responsibility as their nonscholarship classmates. They still can choose to drop classes late, but they will pay a price like everyone else.