It’s been just over than a month since Florida C.A.N.! released College Affordability Adrift: Florida’s Bright Futures Program Faces $347 Million in Cuts by 2017. It is a policy brief outlining how test score criteria changes and funding cuts will nearly halve the number of Florida high school grads who receive the popular, state-run, lottery-funded scholarship. It advocates for a restoration of funding and test score criteria to 2013 levels, while recommending that Florida appoint a commission of experts to conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s spectrum of student aid programs and reexamine their policy goals. .

Since its release, the report has inspired a number of Florida education writers to report on the future of the merit scholarship program and catalyzed broader discussions over the state’s financial aid programs and policies.  No less than 23 TV reports, articles and editorials have been published on Bright Futures since April, many of them citing the brief or statistics reported in it.

Here are highlights of just some of the TV interviews and editorials sparked by the policy brief:

Troy Miller, Florida CAN’s senior researcher and policy analyst, was interviewed by this veteran local TV anchor in a five-minute segment that aired on April 30.

Miller emphasized that by 2017, Bright Futures will shed 71,000 student scholarship recipients. “If you’re not sure if that sounds like a lot of students, that is twice as many 12th graders that enrolled in Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties combined.”

“The whole purpose of that program was to make sure you kept Florida’s brightest in the state of Florida, does the program still do that? If you cut 70,000 students out, what’s going to happen to the talent pool by then?” Ruechel asked. Miller responded, “That’s a good question. We haven’t had a formal review of Bright Futures in ten years.  Are we keeping the best and the brightest in our state? We actually don’t know that. We’re investing over $500 million in state taxpayer money in financial aid resources and we really don’t have a good answer for whether or not it’s doing what it’s intended to do,” Miller added. “That money really needs to be leveraged not only for people’s opportunities for education but to grow our economy.”

Bright Futures going dimmer:  Consider revising the college scholarship program’s goals [Part 1, Part 2]

“The fact is, Bright Futures is the state’s largest student financial aid program and has a designated means of support: the lottery,” writes the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “The Legislature owes it to low- and middle-income families to see if it can be made to work better for their children.” This probing two-part editorial looks beyond the cuts to Bright Futures and encourages lawmakers to ask “larger  vision” questions about Florida’s approach to dispensing need-based college financial aid.

The editorial notes that“helping more students get a college education is in Florida’s economic and social interest.” Among the questions the Herald-Tribune asks,“Is a merit-based program viable, and is it fair to all students?  . . . Would a need-based program, or some hybrid, better serve Florida’s students, its universities and its future economy?”

PALM BEACH POST Bright Futures dimming as path for many of Florida’s most promising students
(April 26, 2014)

Using a wealth of statistics from the Florida C.A.N. policy brief, this editorial advocates for a Bright Futures program that targets high-performing students with demonstrated financial need. Connecting higher education to economic health, this opinion piece makes the case that any future changes to  Bright Futures  must evaluate the program as “one of the most valuable education incentives we have when it comes to building the skilled and talented workforce needed for Florida’s future economy.”

THE DAYTONA BEACH NEWS-JOURNAL For a really bright future, plan
(April 25, 2014)
This editorial expresses concerns  about the  students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds who may be pushed out Bright Futures eligibility by the new standards. Its solution? For Florida to provide more need-based aid and install tuition cuts to keep the state’s  higher education system in reach of those who need it most.

THE GAINESVILLE SUN  University Diversity
(May 1, 2014)

In Florida higher education circles, it’s well-known that nearly a third of Bright Futures scholarship winners come from families with six-figure incomes, and this editorial argues that, “an income cap could be put on Bright Futures to ensure the neediest students are receiving scholarships.” For a full listing and links to the media stories about Bright Futures citing Florida CAN’s brief, see the “Florida CAN In the News” section below.

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