Shame on You: Florida Medallion Scholars

Letter to Editor
Oracle
February 19, 2007
Newspaper Version
As tuition rates increase in Florida public universities and more students become
college bound, the Bright Futures scholarship program is going to run out of
money.  Public university presidents and the media alike are lobbying legislatures
to raise the eligibility requirements for the Florida Medallion scholars, the middle
tier (about 80% of recipients fall in this group) Bright Futures scholarship
recipients, from the current SAT score of 970 to 1010 or 1050.   

The editorial, mostly with a sarcastic tone, mentions, “If the state is serious about
improving higher education, it must reconsider giving less-than-average students
[Florida Medallion scholars] a nearly free ride on university tuition. If experience
shows these students are holding back Florida universities, the bar should be
raised.”

If these students were holding back Florida universities, they would be losing their
Bright Future scholarships anyway after the first year, as they have to maintain a
respectable minimum GPA of 2.75 for continuation.  As per the 2004
report made
by the Office of Policy Program Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA)
of Florida, 71% of the Florida Medallion Scholars continue to meet renewal
eligibility requirements.  

More importantly, the editorial conveniently left out a critical eligibility requirement
for the Medallion Scholars Award, that is, the student in addition to having a
minimum score of 970 in the SAT should also have a minimum weighted GPA of 3.0
in college preparatory academic courses of English, Mathematics, Natural Science,
Social Science, and Foreign Language.

To raise the bar of the SAT score of 970 would disqualify many deserving and
creative students (up to 24% if increased to 1010 and up to 39% if increased to
1050 as per 2004
OPPAGA report) that Florida universities would be lucky to have.
Many students work very hard in four years of high school and it reflects in their
GPA, and not in their SAT due to the nature of SAT type of tests (only verbal and
quantitative skills are measured in a time controlled setting while other types of
intelligence such as spatial, musical, kinesthetic, naturalist, intra-personal and
inter-personal are not measured).

A better proposal for qualification would be to keep the current minimum eligibility
GPA and SAT score, but then give equal weightage to the GPA and SAT scores. A
minimum weighted score would then be needed to qualify for the two levels of the
Bright Futures Scholarship. For example, if GPA and the SAT score were given a
weightage of 50 each for a total of 100 points, a reasonable cut off for eligibility
would be 75 points for the Florida Medallion Award and 85 points for the Florida
Academic Scholars Award. This would be in addition to the current minimum GPA
and scores required on SAT and GPA.

For example, the current qualification for the Florida Medallion would result in a
minimum weighted score of (3.0/4.0*50+970/1600*50=) 68, which is lower than
the proposed qualifying score of 75. However, a student who has worked hard
during his/her high school years and scored a weighted GPA of 4.0 (made A’s and
B’s in honor college preparatory courses), but scored only a 970 in the SAT would
qualify for the Florida Medallion Award with a weighted score of 80. This combined
GPA and SAT weightage proposal would disqualify less number of students as
compared to proposals based on increasing both the SAT score (up to 39% if
increased to 1050 as per the 2004 OPPAGA report) and GPA (21% if increased to
3.25 as per the 2004
OPPAGA report).

Merit-based scholarships are critical to keep the best and the brightest in the
Florida University System; we just have to recognize the diversity of quantifying
meritocracy.

If you, the Florida Medallion Scholar, feel the same way as I do, write a letter to
Tampa Tribune at tribletters@tampatrib.com and or write to the Florida Senate
President Ken Pruitt at pruitt.ken.web@ flsenate.gov.

Let your voice be heard or someone else will speak for you.

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