Demand for Florida Bright Futures scholarships increasing; funding shrinking

Top students will need to pay more for tuition

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Florida's Bright Futures scholarship program has helped millions of Florida's high school graduates go to college.  But the program continues to get cut year after year, making the goal of a secondary education more expensive.

Bright Futures was launched in 1997 and was a scholarship program that would have funded either 100 or 75 percent of a student's tuition at state colleges or universities, depending on grades and entrance exam scores.

There is essentially the same amount of money every year that goes into the Bright Futures program, but the number of students receiving that money has increased. Meaning, everyone's piece of funding shrinks.

Tyler Kelsey, a student at the University of North Florida said he's glad the program is helping him because otherwise he wouldn't be able to attend UNF.

"If there were no Bright Futures or if they keep cutting it, I would have had to stick with my local community college just because its cheaper," said Kelsey.

In recent years the legislature considered making changes to the program, like offering the fund only to those pursuing degrees in science, technology, education and math.

The highest level of the scholarship used to be given to the academic scholars who would have received 100 percent of their tuition ten years ago. Now, that top scholar only gets $100 per credit hour. That money only covers half the cost of tuition.

Every year the funding amount each student receives changes. That's why financial aid experts say students should start shopping for scholarships early and learn as much as they can about potential college expenses.

"It's unfortunate because Bright Futures gives kids motivation to do better in school, because the better you do, the more money you get," said Anissa Agne with UNF Financial Aid. 

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