TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

Higher scholastic requirements will keep thousands of graduating Florida high school students from receiving Bright Futures scholarships this fall.

The dwindling scholarships have become a political football in this year's gubernatorial campaign.

This fall first time Bright Futures recipients must have an ACT score of at least 26 for the minimum award. That’s up from a score of 22 last fall.

At its peak in 2008, Bright Futures was costing the state $429 million with average awards of $2,500. At the height of the recession in 2011, lawmakers raised test score and GPA requirements, cutting $100 million. The average award dropped to just over $1,900.

Now in a Web Only ad, Democrats are criticizing Gov. Rick Scott for the cuts.

In Gainesville for a campaign event, Scott responded.

“Bright Futures is a great program,” Scott said. “As you know we have historic funding this year for K-12 state colleges, for universities. We’ve got a lot of projects around universities. I want to continue to fund Bright Futures.”

Higher standards kick in again this fall, and those requirements will mean 26,000 fewer students receiving the stipend.

That’s expected to save the state just over $50 million.

Toni Morse, a mother of an incoming freshman at Florida State University said her daughter has the lower-tier Bright Futures, but she worries her tenth-grade son will be shut out.

“I’m definitely a little nervous for him,” Morse said. “I think that his opportunities are not going to be as open as they are for her, and even for her they’ve definitely decreased over what I’ve seen in the last few years.”