The Florida Bright Futures Scholarship is well known around the state as a great way to help high-achieving and dedicated students afford the tuition costs of public university inside the state. (Check out the link to get full eligibility details and academic requirements.)
But with Florida’s economy in trouble and the tax base largely relying on home values, there’s been a lot of worry among students and education activists that the Bright Futures program could be a target for budget cuts. Specifically, the scholarship is funded from the proceeds of lottery ticket sales – and sales are way down.
A major problem with maintaining scholarship funds is the way its expenses are under double pressures of increased enrollment and rising tuition costs. This can be a real nightmare for state budget planners when college administrators are trying to fix their own budget deficits by raising tuition costs.
While the current Florida budget has not been finalized, legislators appear to have reached a compromise on the scholarship. Bright Futures will continue to pay tuition for students, but only relative to the costs of the 2008-2009 school year – despite an 8% tuition hike for the 2009-2010 year.
The new scholarship amount also won’t cover whatever tuition increases are set at the institutional level. Each college can still choose to raise its rates 10-15%.
All told, the current compromise proposal could leave scholarship recipients responsible for 20-40% of total tuition costs, depending on the award level they’re eligible for. That’s a big difference from 0-25%!
While the political decision may be called a victory for the scholarship, I don’t imagine that too many students will be celebrating the news! Since the program is quite popular among state residents, any politicians voting to eliminate it would be certain to face significant public pushback.
As a compromise, the reduction in benefits may be a prudent political move that deals with economic reality without encouraging too much voter outrage, it is also just one of the many education cuts being introduced in the last few months.