If the country has been in a recession, the Florida Lottery hasn’t reflected it. The Lottery for 2009-2010 contributed more than $1.24 billion to Florida’s education efforts – marking the eighth time in the agency’s 23-year history that its annual earnings exceeded $1 billion. High school students who rely on Lottery-funded Bright Futures Scholarships to help pay for their studies at Florida’s colleges and universities are nevertheless going to be expected to achieve better grades.
The state scholarship program has grown, according to a recent article in a Florida news press article. It’s gotten to the point where 180,000 students entering Florida’s colleges and universities are splitting $437 million for an average of about $2,400 each as compared with 1997, when roughly 42,000 students split $70 million for less than $1,700 in average awards each, the article suggested.
Reports suggest that Bright Futures amounts per student could decline while eligibility becomes tougher. Students in Florida already are going to have to work harder to receive Bright Futures Scholarships. For the 2011-2012 year, students must generally have minimum 970 SAT or 20 ACT scores to receive Bright Futures Scholarships, and next year they’re going to have to score at least a 980 on the SAT and a 21 on the ACT. The maximum scholarship amount provided – $125 per credit hour for four years – now requires SAT scores of 1270 or ACT scores of 28, and by 2013-14 would require scores of 1280 or 28.
In addition to helping to offset the tuition at colleges and universities by paying for Bright Futures Scholarships, Florida Lottery money goes toward public schools, state universities and school construction projects. For 2009-2010, the money was split nearly equally, though the most – some $425 million – went toward Florida Bright Futures scholarships. The scholarships date back to 1997, when the state created them as a means of rewarding students for their high school academic accomplishments by helping them move on to studies at colleges and universities.
Merit-based scholarships are attractive to colleges and universities because they help the institutions draw academically talented students. At the same time, these types of scholarships have come under fire for awarding students whose families might be able to afford studies at colleges and universities. At a Florida university where full-time students, depending upon whether they live on campus or not, might have to come up with as much as $2,800 to nearly $20,000 a year with Bright Futures changes, the median family income according to the news press article is $105,000.
Florida isn’t the only state to offer Lottery-funded scholarships. The state of Georgia, a pioneer in this area, recently stiffened its academic requirements for full-tuition HOPE scholarships, which now require minimum 3.7 grade point averages and 1200 SAT scores. Students with minimum 3.0 grade point averages in Georgia meanwhile can obtain scholarships that cover 90 percent of the tuition for their studies at colleges and universities.
Florida students were at one point able to receive Bright Futures Scholarships for studies at colleges and universities for as many as seven years after they graduated from high school. Changes that have already been made to the program limit eligibility to five years.