This is a critical message for all college-bound teens (and parents), especially those based in Florida. It contains critical information and an important lesson for ALL college-bound teens (and parents).

In case you missed last week’s small mention in your local newspaper, Florida lawmakers just passed new legislation that will raise the academic requirements for the Bright Futures scholarship program. These changes will take affect beginning with the Class of 2021.

For those unfamiliar, Florida Bright Futures is a Legislatively managed, state-funded merit scholarship program that provides performance-based grants to Florida students who meet and maintain certain academic and service standards (see below for details). These Bright Futures awards can be used at all accredited Florida colleges, both public and private.

How This Affects Florida Families: Regardless of your personal politics, this is a major — not to mention VERY COSTLY —
developement for FL families with college-bound students. There are really no winners with this legislation, perhaps other than the bill’s sponsor, Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland).

Under the new legislation, students will now need to receive an SAT score of 1330 (estimated), instead of a 1290, to qualify for a FL Scholars Award (100% full tuition & fees at FL public universities). For students to qualify for a FL Medallion Award (75% tuition/fees scholarship, currently about $4,875), they will now need an SAT score of 1200 (as opposed to 1170).

To put this in financial terms:

– If your child is a current HS sophomore or younger and scores between a 1290 and 1320 on their SAT, your child’s award will drop by about $1,625 per year (beginning in Fall 2021).

– If your current HS sophomore earned between 1170 and 1190 (or lower than a 1200) on their SAT, they could see their entire $4,875 (per year!) scholarship disappear altogether in 2021.

For the record, Stargel talks about making these changes to maintain the “integrity” of the Bright Futures scholarship, based on the national averages for SAT scores. While she makes a statistical point, the averages for Florida SAT test scores has remained flat. Please note that at this time, this new law does NOT affect students who used or will use an ACT score to meet eligibility.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, according to the Miami-Dade County school district, the nation’s 3th largest  (niche.com), this will negatively and disproportionately impact lower and middle income families who do not have the resources to pay for extensive (and expensive) test prep moreso than their ‘wealthier’ peers. Miami-Dade County estimates that 65% of its African-American students, 46% of Hispanic students and 40% of White/non-Hispanic students who currently qualified for the Scholars Award would drop to Medallion (a loss of $1,625 per year for each student).

Net net, there will be hundreds of thousands of FL families who will individually lose out on tens of thousands of scholarship dollars.

What’s more, while students at all FL colleges and universities will feel the impact, it will be felt most among those who are not attending UF, FSU, and UM (at these schools, average test scores tend to exceed the 1200 minimum for a Medallion Award).

How This Affects ALL Families: Florida’s Bright Futures Program has been a moving target for years, subject to political whims, economic externalities, and budgetary priorities.  Most recently, Tallahassee increased the scholarship amounts for both the Scholars and Medallion awards two years ago, but not the budget to fund those increases. During a Gubenatorial election year, it made sense to support a higher ed initiative – the scholarship  increases effectively put money into the system for the direct benefit of families (read: voters). But we’re not in an election year now, and this the new legislation clearly aims to offset the budget shortfall created two years ago.

If you are a long-term subscriber, client or partner, you should not be surprised by this move; we predicted it long ago.  And herein lies the lesson for ALL parents, regardless of where you live:

All legislatively mandated and/or politically motivated funding sources like Bright Futures (and NY State’s Free Tuition Initiative, DCTAG, Georgia Hope and others), are budget dependent and subject to political whims of your elected officials and those candidates seeking election.

With programs such as these, the devil is in the details. None of these programs is without its share of critics and unintended consequences!  And that’s why they should NEVER be counted on as the sole source of any family’s college funding strategy!

In all cases, state budgets are subject to financial conditions — and even when these programs are fully funded, they often have trouble meeting the demand for them. If/when that happens, states often consider a number of suboptimal remedies including raising standards/requirements (as in this case), income-testing the benefit (as in New York State’s free college initiative), awarding first-come first-served (DCTAG), or instituting lottery systems to allocate scholarships (under consideration in NY). Imagine that?

In short, all of these state-funded initiatives are great and we welcome them – they represent a piece of a sound college plan. But they cannot necessarily be relied upon as the sole strategic component of your family’s plan. There are ways – outside of relying on these types of unreliable programs – to ensure that your child receives a GREAT post-secondary education at a great institution (public or private). We have 13 years of proof that it’s possible (even likely) for all families — of any economic circumstance or academic prowess — to receive significant discounts from their child’s dream colleges.

The key is in the PLANNING and PREP process — and then in the IMPLEMENTATION of that Plan. So,

– If you’re the parent of a 12th grader in Florida, MAKE SURE that your child completes a Bright Futures application BEFORE graduation. Every Florida high school senior should complete a Bright Futures application, even if that child plans to go to school out of Florida and even if they do not plan to apply for any other financial aid. You never know – financial circumstances can change, Johnny may find that it’s too cold up north and transfer after a year or two; or some other reason may force a return to Florida. If you don’t have a Bright Futures application on record before graduation, you can’t get the money.

– If you’re the parent of an 11th grader everywhere – it’s GO TIME!  Now is your opportunity to ensure that a) your child applies to colleges that you can afford; b) that have programs suited to their interests and career aspirations; and c) that their applications are done right, on time (actually early) and without stress. To take advantage of this opportunity, you should enroll your rising 12th grader in our Summer Application Program! Click here for more details and to register (free for Gold/Platinum clients, ACCE and Xceed students). Enter coupon code MAY2019 to save $400 off the cost of tuition – but hurry! Discount ends May 31!

– And, if you’re the parent of a 10th grader, you are ON THE CLOCK – you are actually nearly halfway through your prior prior look-back year – the income year that the government and colleges will be reviewing to determine your eligibility for financial-based grants and institutional scholarships. Now – not after this year is over – is the time to get in touch with us to review (or create) both an admissions and a funding strategy!! To learn more, call us at 954-659-1234 or reply to this email with your inquiry.

If you have any questions about these changes or any of our programs, please feel free to contact us via email, info@yourcollegeconcierge.com.

All the best,

– Peter Ratzan

P.S. If you’re looking for quality, inexpensive, do-it-yourself test prep (SAT or ACT) conducted online and at your own pace, then we have a great solution for you.

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