Lawmaker Says Financial Aid Could Depend On Classes, Not Just Test Scores

Sep 15, 2014

Senate Education Chairman John Legg said lawmakers may discuss ways to make state financial aid depend more on classes and less on test scores.
Credit Zack Mccarthy / Flickr

A key Senate lawmaker may put less emphasis on test scores to determine which students qualify for state financial aid for college -- possibly including Bright Futures.

Instead, scholarships  and grants would depend more on taking tougher classes in high school.

Senator John Legg (R-Trinity) said he and other lawmakers have heard complaints and concerns since raising the minimum SAT and ACT scores required to qualify for Bright Futures.

In the future, students could have to earn the new scholar version of Florida’s high school diploma to qualify for state aid. Florida also has a standard diploma and another focused on job certifications.

Florida lawmakers raised required SAT and ACT score for Bright Futures, slashing the number of students receiving the scholarships. One in three high school graduates qualified for Bright Futures at its peak. Now, just one in eight graduates qualifies.

"There has been concern," Legg said. "Obviously, when a student misses the Bright Futures eligibility, people are not happy with that.

“I think you’ll see the Legislature discussing how can we take those designations and attach some financial incentives.”

The scholar designation requires students to take more high-level math, science and foreign language courses. Florida State University physics professor Paul Cottle has also suggested tying the scholarships to high school courses, which could also encourage more students to study science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Legg said he sees a "stabilization" of Bright Futures and a discussion about qualifications. Funding for the program has declined to $180.4 million from $429 million since 2009.

An analysis by the Florida College Access Network found the new test requirements disqualified disproportionately more black and Hispanic students than white or Asian students. The group has asked that Bright Futures eligibility be determined by a sliding scale of grades and test scores.

Research has shown high school grade point average is a better predictor than SAT or ACT scores of whether a student will succeed in college.

The U.S. Department of Education is investigating Bright Futures to see if the use of test scores is discriminatory. Florida Department of Education officials said since the announcement the investigation had been revived, they had not heard from the federal agency.