Elisa Huapilla is the first person in her family to attend college.
She didn’t know what to expect at Florida State University. A lottery-funded Bright Futures scholarship pays part of the tuition.
“The transition period can be very difficult,” she says. “I had nobody at home to call to tell me how college was supposed to be. And I relied a lot on friends and peers and people like university staff who were there to help me.”
The help meant Huapilla maintained her grades — and Bright Futures money. But a House bill could wipe the scholarships from students who have trouble adjusting.
A student named an Academic Scholar with a 3.5 GPA in high school would have to earn a 3.5 GPA in college to renew the award under the proposed change. Currently, Academic Scholars need a 3.0 to renew
Both Medallion Scholars and Gold Seal Vocational students would need a 3.0 to renew, up from 2.75.
University of South Florida officials say a rough estimate shows one in four Bright Futures students would not meet the new requirements. Provost Paul Dosal worries science majors would struggle most.
Rep. Marlene O’Toole of The Villages says the goal is increasing college graduation rates for Bright Futures scholars.
But O’Toole says they may give students a grace period from the new rule.
“I think it’s probably reasonable to put some time limit in there that it doesn’t start so they know in advance this is what’s going to be expected.”
She says lawmakers didn’t look at how many students might lose scholarships, just how much money the change would save.
A state analysis says the changes will save $14.8 million for the budget year beginning July 1, 2015.
O’Toole says the bill is likely to change before final passage.
“Stay tuned,” she says.