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Bright Futures Changing

August 11th, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

When Florida college students return to campus in two weeks, they will find their Bright Futures scholarships dont buy as much as they used to. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, after years of trying, penny-pinching legislators finally succeeded in limiting how much high school graduates will receive from Bright Futures.

Last year, 159 thousand Florida students got a total or partial free ride on Bright Futures, costing taxpayers about 380 million dollars.

Bright Futures scholarships were created in 1997 as a way to prove that lottery money was actually helping schools. This is what high school students were saying at the time.

“I feel cheated.”

The first year provided college for 40 thousand students, costing 79 million dollars.

By 2003 growing costs had lawmakers looking for a way to limit the scholarships.Then Senator Ken Pruitt, one of the original sponsors, drove a school bus across the state to shore up support.

The state has got to keep its commitment,” Pruitt said.

But now Pruitt is gone, and Bright Futures is changing. The scholarships will no longer cover up to 100 percent of tuition, but will provide a fixed amount. That worries Skye Demoya of Tampa.

I had to take out a loan, so that means Im going to graduate with more debt,” Demoya said. “Which is not good.

The change is forcing music major Tom Kahre to work part time.

I was not planning on doing that before but now it looks like Im going to have to do that to cover some of those extra costs, Kahre said.

Gone this year is a stipend for books. Last year it was worth just under $200.

Students who drop classes after they start will also be forced for the first time to pay the state back.

Last year, 159 thousand Florida students got a total or partial free ride on Bright Futures, costing taxpayers about 380 million dollars.

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