The Florida Legislature is getting ready to vote on a bill that will reduce the Bright Futures award from it’s current $3,700 to about $2,900 per year, making college in Florida more expensive for graduates of Florida high schools.

With recent tuition increases of 15% per year at Florida universities, Bright Futures cannot keep up with the rising education costs. Florida’s precarious budget crisis has put further pressure on the Legislature to find ways to cut spending. As a result, the popular Bright Futures program, funded primarily through Lotto sales, is on the chopping block.

Florida is not the only state seeing cuts in merit aid. Northern neighbor Georgia has made changes to its HOPE Scholarship, increasing the academic requirements needed to earn the award. Expect similar changes to Florida’s requirements, which currently are 3.5 GPA and 1270 on the SAT (3.0 and 970 for the partial scholarship).

Here’s the reality: Bright Futures, while a great program that aids thousand of Florida students, is not the answer to parents’ challenges in paying for college. With total cost of attendance at a typical Florida university at about $18,000, the Bright Futures award only covers about 1/5 of the total. Certainly cuts to Bright Futures will be detrimental to many Florida students who are seeking a college degree. It will also force more families to fill out a FAFSA, putting competitive pressure on federal grants and other programs that are facing cuts in Congress.

Parents of high school students should take action and educate themselves on the nuances of the financial aid system in order to gain access to those precious dollars that will be ever more difficult to access. To learn tips to consider and traps to avoid, check out www.LearnCollegeFunding.com.

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