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
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 email@example.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.