Changes to Bright Futures could negatively impact minorities - FOX 35 News Orlando

Bright Futures changes may negatively impact minorities, lawmaker says

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Getting a college scholarship from the State of Florida is about to get more difficult.

Florida's Bright Futures program is raising standards.  The new requirements place more weight on test scores.

Starting July 1st, you'll need higher test scores to qualify for a Bright Futures scholarship: at least 1170 on the SAT and 26 for the ACT.

"I know it would eliminate a lot of minorities from receiving the scholarship," said Rep. Ricardo Rangel, D-Kissimmee.

Rep. Rangel said the changes will disproportionately affect students of color and those from low income families.

Rangel has proposed a bill that would roll back requirements to previously accepted levels.

"I think that we need to make sure that the students who really need the scholarship, don't fall through the cracks," said Rep. Rangel.

Bright Futures is funded by the state lottery. There is concern money is running out. Awards have recently been reduced to between $76 to $101 per credit hour.

Representatives for schools like Stetson University in DeLand said they've been anticipating the change for two years since the new requirements were first approved.  Joel Bauman, Vice-President of Enrollment Management for Stetson University, said the changes could affect nearly 10-percent of applicants.

Bauman said of the 10,000 applicants this year, 4,100 are eligible for Bright Futures. The changes would eliminate 900 of those applicants from receiving the Bright Futures scholarships-- a third of that number being minorities.

"We think it will have an affect once students go through the admission process, get to their financial aid, see that there may be a missing component" said Bauman. "Which would be the Bright Futures."

Schools like Stetson University are now asking families to consider all options, including financial aid.

In fact, filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), is now a state-mandated requirement for Bright Futures recipients.

Stetson University financial aid officer Tara Jones compared planning for college to going through a toll booth.

"There are people who plan ahead and are ready," said Jones. "They have the Sunpass. They just go right through. Then there are people who get there and are like, 'Oh, I didn't plan for paying for the toll. How am I going to pay for it?'"

State legislators voted in 2011 to approve the increased requirements for the scholarship.

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