Florida Bright Futures Scholarship

Funded out of state lottery coffers, Florida's Bright Futures Scholarship is the nation's second-largest state-run scholarship program. Nearly $300 million in aid was awarded between 1999 and 2001. Designed to reward "students for their academic achievements during high school by providing funding for them to pursue postsecondary educational and career goals in Florida," the program relies on a narrow definition of "academic achievement" that consists solely of standardized test scores and high school GPA.

As indicated by the data below, the rigid test score requirements have resulted in the awards going to disproportionately few African American and Latino students. FairTest, along with several civil rights and education advocacy organizations, sent a letter to Florida officials (including the Governor, Board of Education, and select members of the legislature) calling their attention to the racial disparities in Bright Futures recipients and asking for a revision of the qualifying criteria.

Since no concrete changes were proposed to make the scholarship program more equitable, FairTest and its allies filed a U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights complaint of unlawful discrimination on August 26, 2002 charging the program with racial bias.

2000-01 Florida Bright Futures Recipients

Academic Scholars Award

Qualifications: 3.5 GPA in core courses, ACT of 28 or SAT of 1270
Award: 100% tuition at a public institution, plus $300/semester expenses; equivalent amount at a private institution

Race/ethnicity Total % of recipients Total % of test takers SAT average ACT average
White 76.9 57.6 1045 22.5
Black 2.9 16.0 855 17.7
Hispanic 8.7 15.4 953 20.5
Asian Am. 6.6 4.2 1045 21.9
Am. Indian .3 .5 987 21.1
Multi/unknown 4.6 6.3 -- --

Merit Scholarship Award

Qualifications: 3.0 GPA in core course, ACT of 20 or SAT of 920
Award: 75% tuition at a public institution; equivalent amount at a private institution

Race/ethnicity Total % of recipients Total % of test takers SAT average ACT average
White 71.1 57.6 1045 22.5
Black 8.2 16.0 855 17.7
Hispanic 12.8 15.4 953 20.5
Asian Am. 3.9 4.2 1045 21.9
Am. Indian .3 .5 987 21.1
Multi/unknown 3.7 6.3 -- --

Data gathered from the Florida Department of Education, ACT Inc., and the College Board.

Read FairTest's letter to Florida's elected officials and accompanying press release regarding the racial bias of the Bright Futures scholarship program. (Note that the scholarship data included in the letter and press release is from the 2000-01 school year, the latest data available at that time.)

Read about the complaint of unlawful discrimination filed with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights on August 27, 2002.

Read a Winter 2001-2002 Examiner article about the Bright Futures scholarship.

More information can be found on the Florida Department of Education website.