The future of Bright Futures

Published: Saturday, January 10, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 9, 2004 at 11:39 p.m.

Recently, your paper editorialized that the state's college scholarship program, Bright Futures, needs to undergo massive changes because of its unfair nature toward low income and minority students. I must disagree on the basis that the proposals currently under consideration by the Florida Legislature would only further exacerbate the issues discussed by your paper.

The Florida House has sought, and is seeking, to reduce the number of college scholarships awarded to Florida's most talented youth. A proposal adopted last year by the Florida House, over the unanimous dissent of every Democrat serving in the Legislature, would have reduced the number of available Bright Futures Scholarships by 39 percent.

Low-income students by far fared the worse under the Republican proposal. An analysis by the Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis and Accountability found that the number of scholarships available to African-American students would decrease by 55 percent and scholarships available to Hispanic students and students receiving free lunch would decrease by 46 percent and 52 percent respectively.

Moreover, the Republican measure would have reduced the amount of each Bright Futures Scholarship, increasing the cost of college for all middle class and working class families.

Opening the doors to college is the greatest opportunity that we as a society can provide for our young people. This Legislature has already raised tuition by 32 percent in just five years, and is considering proposals that may raise tuition by as much as 60 percent in the next four years. The Florida Legislature has done enough to make it harder for kids to go to college.

Protecting the promise of Bright Futures for Florida's best and brightest students is one of the most important things we can do to ensure that Florida is economically competitive for generations to come. We should look to increase need-based aid for students attending college, in addition to maintaining current financial aid efforts. Florida can and should provide both excellent merit and need based programs.

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