Among educators who value intellectual rigor, there have often been rumblings about how academic standards have eroded. “Old schoolers” will complain that a grade of B today doesn’t at all match a B from decades ago. Well, whether it’s purely a fiscal concern or not, Florida’s Bright Futures program has really tightened its belt insofar as student performance is concerned.
It’s expected that this fall only one-half as many Florida students will receive scholarships as in the pervious year. One half! The numbers are startling: from over 41,000 students who received awards last year, to just over 21,000 expected this year.
A mere six years ago, a third of applicants qualified for Bright Futures. That 33% rate is now down to about 12%, according to one state advocacy group. What has changed?
For one thing, there have been significant increases in the required SAT or ACT score. The State has cut the cost of the program in response to complaints about low standards for this merit-based scholarship as well as the cost of the program itself.
There are two levels of Bright Futures, Medallion and Florida Academic Scholars. The former pays slightly more than one third of State University System school tuition and fees. The latter pays about half of tuition and fees (about $2,300 and $3,100, respectively). This year’s seniors and future graduates must achieve SAT (Reading plus Math) or ACT scores of 1170 or 26, respectively, for the Medallion award; scores of 1290 or 29 are required for the Florida Academic Scholar award.
This tightening up has led to students sitting multiple times for the SAT or ACT in the hopes of surpassing the cut-off scores required. And the outlook is not good. A state office has calculated that the funds available will continue to shrink – down to $180 million from a one-time high of $429 million.
As is the case everywhere in the country, minority students will feel the greatest impact. All across the state, Florida students are going to have to reconsider their college plans – or, at the very least, their test preparation. In the final analysis, a student will have to work harder to achieve this particular scholarship goal. One clear focus should be test preparation. Take it from the College Board and ACT: each considers at least 40 hours of study for the tests a necessity in order to achieve significant score gains.
We’re justifiably proud of the number of students whom we’ve helped to achieve their Bright Future goals. Contact us to learn more.