How to Get Free College in Florida
By James Grossman
One program that aids rising college students with their tuition costs is the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program. Bright Futures is funded entirely through the Florida Lottery. By meeting certain requirements, Florida students can receive one of several types of scholarships that can cover up to 100 percent of their tuition costs and certain other fees. The requirements to qualify for the program include meeting certain requirements in class credits, grade-point average (GPA), service hours, and test scores.
The two most prominent forms of scholarship recipients include Florida Academic Scholarship (FAS) and Florida Medallion Scholarship (FMS). The FAS provides an award that can cover up to 100 percent of their tuition and related costs, while the FMS can provide an award that covers up to 75 percent of their tuition and related costs. The requirements to qualify for these two awards differ. Both awards require four credits in English and mathematics, three credits in natural sciences and social sciences, and two sequential credits in the same world language. The FMS award requires a weighted 3.00 GPA, a 25 on the ACT or a 1210 on the SAT, and 75 service hours. The FAS award requires a weighted 3.50 GPA, a 29 on the ACT or a 1330 on the SAT, and 100 service hours. If a student does not have a high enough GPA to qualify, there are other ways to satisfy the requirement for the scholarship, such as by becoming a National Merit Scholarship finalist. In addition to these requirements, the student must be a Florida resident, earn a standard diploma, and not have been found guilty or pleaded nolo contendere to a felony charge.
|Florida Medallion Scholarship||Florida Academic Scholarship|
|3.00 GPA||3.50 GPA|
|25 ACT||29 ACT|
|1210 SAT||1330 SAT|
|75 Service hours||100 Service hours|
|Up to 75% of costs||Up to 100% of costs|
Service Hour Requirements
For the service hour requirements, Florida has certain regulations on what activities can be used to qualify as service hours. According to Florida Statutes 1009.534, 1009.535, and 1009.536, students must direct their volunteer work to a social or civic issue in their local area. Hours of service must be documented in paper and must be signed by the student, their parent or guardian, and a representative of the organization of the source of volunteering. According to the St. Johns County School District (SJCSD) guidelines for service hours, some activities that can be counted towards Bright Futures include volunteering at a food pantry, completing an internship at a non-profit organization, and making donations of items such as toothbrushes. Activities that do not count towards the scholarship requirements include donating non-perishable foods, doing non-paid word at a for-profit business, or hours conducted during school hours or activities required for academic credit.
The Bright Futures scholarship can cover a hefty amount of college tuition for qualifying students. In 2020, the budget for the scholarship exceeded 650 million dollars for over 100 thousand qualifying students. At the University of Florida (UF), the average cost of tuition is 6380 dollars. Given a student obtains the FAS, they will not have to pay for the tuition cost. However, housing, books, supplies, and food will cost a student over ten thousand dollars on average, which the scholarship only provides 300 dollars per semester to cover. This is all assuming that a student is enrolled in undergraduate courses on campus. In total, the estimated expenses will still cost a hefty amount, but the Bright Future scholarship will cover thousands of dollars in tuition.
When high school seniors have satisfied all requirements for the scholarship, they must apply for the scholarship by submitting a Florida Financial Aid Application (FFAA) by Aug. 31, 2022, after their high school graduation. All requirements must be met before graduating; however, SAT and ACT scores from tests taken through Jun. 30 are accepted. Moreover, it is uncertain if the COVID-19 pandemic will cause any further delays to Bright Futures requirements as it did to the 2020-2021 requirements. After submitting their FFAA, the student must track their application and award status online. Once the scholarship is distributed, it does not need to be renewed annually provided the student attends their college within five years of their high school graduation. In order to sustain the scholarship, students must maintain a 3.0 GPA in college for the FAS, and a 2.75 GPA for the FMS. With the Florida Bright Future Scholarship Program, students are relieved of a significant amount of financial stress provided they qualify and apply for the scholarship.