State university leaders want to add $45 million in needs-based financial aid to help make up for changes to the Bright Futures scholarship program. Those new, higher qualifications will eliminate more than $250 million a year in college aid by 2018.
The State University System Board of Governors Wednesday delayed a vote on adding $45 million. They want more time to discuss the issue.
“Without these funds, retention and graduation rates are likely to fall as students come to grips with the financial implications of continuing their schooling,” system officials wrote in an analysis of the proposal. Students graduating with less debt and ready to enter the workforce can return three times the money in tax revenue and economic growth than the cost of the aid, they wrote.
The report also notes a strong correlation between income and college entrance exam test scores, such as the ACT and SAT. Bright Futures eligibility is now heavily dependent on SAT and ACT scores. The U.S. Department of Education has reopened an investigation to determine whether Bright Futures’ use of test results is discriminatory.
The Board of Governors analysis found the percentage of black students who would have qualified for Bright Futures in 2012, but were disqualified in by the new requirements in 2013, was twice that of white students. And the percentage of of Hispanic students excluded was 47 percent higher than white students.
“The additional funding will be targeted to ensure lower-income students who are impacted by the loss of the Bright Futures scholarships and academically qualified will continue to have the opportunity to pursue higher education goals without depending solely on student loans,” university system officials wrote. “This request is consistent with the Board of Governor’s goal of making college affordable for Florida families. This will help ensure our top students remain in Florida.”
The board meets Wednesday and Thursday at the University of West Florida. You can watch here.