About half as many students will qualify for Bright Futures scholarships when the school year begins this fall as did during the current year, according to new estimates from the Florida College Access Network.
That’s because lawmakers have steadily increased requirements for the primarily lottery-funded scholarships, raising minimum scores required on the SAT and ACT college entrance exams. Graduates must score at least 1170 on the SAT or 26 on the ACT to qualify for a scholarship this fall. That’s up from 970 on the SAT and 20 on the ACT in the 2008-2009 school year.
One in three high school graduates qualified for the scholarships in 2009. This fall, just one in eight graduates are estimated to meet new minimum required scores.
“The value and need for a highly skilled and educated workforce have been highly touted by our state’s leaders in Tallahassee this session,” Florida C.A.N.! senior researcher Troy Miller said in a statement. “If these sweeping cuts to financial aid are enforced as scheduled, our state will find itself at a competitive disadvantage.”
The reason is simple, according to state leaders: money.
“There’s only so much money to go around for education. If you’re giving a merit-based award, it should be to the top students in the state,” state Rep. George Moraitis, R-Fort Lauderdale, told The Sun-Sentinel.
The new requirements would cut the cost of the scholarship program to $180.4 million by the 2017-2018 school year, according to the Florida College Access Network estimates. That’s down from $429 million in the 2008-2009 school year.
Last year, University of South Florida research showed half of black and Hispanic students who qualified for the scholarships in 2012 no longer would have met the new, tougher requirements in 2013.
By comparison, about 40 percent of white and Asian students at state universities would no longer be eligible for the scholarship.