Student Governments statewide unite for Bright Futures

Kelly Tyko

It was a historic event. Student Government leaders statewide decided they weren’t just going to sit around and watch things happen to their students’ scholarship money.

So on Wednesday, Aug. 21, they held a press conference in Tallahassee to rally for the most popular scholarship in the state – Bright Futures. Four members from FAU’s Student Government made the more than six-hour drive to stand on Capitol Hill as a united front.

“We might run into some opposition along the way,” said Pablo Paez, FAU’s student body president and the vice-chair of the Florida Student Association (FSA). “But we’re taking a stand because we want to save this program.”

The main reason why the student governments of Florida’s public universities formed FSA was to lobby for student issues. Paez says that this is the first time FSA has taken a proactive stance.

“In order to ensure that students across the state of Florida, who excel academically, are provided the needs to attend college in years to come,” Paez said. “It is essential that the Bright Future Scholarship Program remains coupled with tuition and fees.”

David Foy, the executive director of FSA, said, “During the Association’s recent annual planning conference, the student leaders came together and developed a number of recommendations aimed at strengthening the overall substance and vitality of the program.”

“We’re fighting to keep it status quo,” said Foy. “If you modify the program, they’ll go elsewhere.”

Foy says he agrees with the recommendations the students came up with. If adopted, the new policy recommendations would guarantee that current high school seniors and current Bright Futures recipients will fall under the current guidelines. If the state institutes a standards increase for Bright Futures, FSA estimates a $33.1-million savings and estimate a tuition/fees split and award cap would save $18 million, according to the FSA website.

FSA is rallying to raise the Medallion – an award covering 75 percent of state tuition – GPA for award recipients from 3.0 to 3.2 and up the SAT requirement from 970 to 1030. FSA also supports reinstatement of summer funds, or lifting the 9-hour summer semester requirement, and supports increasing fees for books and room and board.

“Our recommended changes to the Bright Futures Program ensures Florida’s finest high school students will stay in Florida for their higher education needs while at the same time, stabilize the state’s monetary commitment to the program,” said Jason Crawford, FSA chairman and University of West Florida Student Body president.

“This is the first step to achieving our goal,” Paez says of the press conference. “After the elections, and with the startup of the legislation session, this will be an issue that we will fight for.”