Proposal would expand Bright Futures Scholarship eligibility

Pre-Advanced Placement coursework would be given greater weight in determining student eligibility in addition to a particular battery of AP classes.

Eligibility for one of the state’s most popular scholarships could widen, according to a bill filed last week.

New legislation would add Pre-Advanced Placement to the coursework that gets special consideration in awarding Bright Futures Scholarships and would elevate the prestige of taking a particular track of Advanced Placement courses in considering a students’ eligibility for Bright Futures.

Republican Rep. Jennifer Canadywho represents Polk County, filed the bill (HB 303) Friday — the freshman lawmaker’s second piece of legislation. The Pre-Advanced Placement courses her legislation would add are usually taught in ninth and 10th grade in preparation for the Advanced Placement courses, which count for college credit. 

Created by the state in 1997, merit-based Bright Futures Scholarships cover 75% or 100% of tuition costs for eligible Florida students, depending on students’ qualifications. In the last 35 years, more than $8 billion has been given out in Bright Futures Scholarships.

The number of students awarded the scholarship over the program’s life is poised to roll to one million, according to state documents. Counting the class of 2021, more than 950,388 students have received a Bright Futures Scholarships.

The number of students who received the academic award has been running in the 30,000-student range annually. The highest number of scholarships was awarded in 2010-11, when 53,800 students received it.

The bill would also elevate the work of those who achieve Advanced Placement Capstone designation administered through the College Board, to the same level as the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma and the Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) Diploma.

Currently, IB and AICE diplomas are the only diplomas that make students eligible for the Florida Academic Scholars Award, which entitles them to the highest award, the 100% of tuition costs, given through Bright Futures.

Last year, legislation tweaked the volunteer requirements, making it so that paid student employment hours could also count like volunteer hours. The idea advanced with the contention that no student should have to choose between making money to support their family or racking up volunteer hours toward a Bright Futures Scholarship.

As far as the latest proposal to broaden eligibility for Bright Futures, no data was available about how many more students would be eligible if Pre-Advanced Placement courses were given extra weight. Or how many more would be eligible for the 100% of tuition costs at the state’s public universities or a comparable amount paid to a private school because they achieved the AP Capstone. The designation indicates a student has taken a particular battery of AP courses.

National figures show Florida is ahead of the pack in the percentage of students getting college credit before they enter college. The state has the fifth-highest percentage of students scoring a “3” or better on AP placement exams, according to a report on the class of 2021, the latest available. That score or better entitles a student to receive college credit without taking the class in college.

Canady, a teacher, filed her bill just as controversy about one AP course, AP African American Studies, became a national political firestorm.  The state decided to block the pilot course from being taught in the state’s schools because it was judged “indoctrination” not education. The action has received much attention, much of it highly critical, however.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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