Carlos Guillermo Smith’s ‘Restore Our Bright Futures’ act aims to help more students go to college

Carlos Guillermo Smith, a UCF graduate himself, wants you to have more access to higher education – that’s why his new bill, HB 489, introduces sweeping expansions to the Bright Futures scholarship.

The bill, called the “Restore Our Bright Futures” act, will return the scholarship to the levels of the 2010-11 school year and make it easier for people to enroll in the program and go to college.

It comes after years of raising standards for the test scores required to get into the program, as well as raising the number of volunteer hours one needs to work.

In the 2010-2011 school year, the requirement was a 1270 SAT score or 28 ACT score for the Florida Academic Scholars award, the highest offered by Bright Futures.

Since then, the minimum scores required have gradually gone up – last year, one needed a 1290 on the SAT or a 29 on the ACT to get that award.

Smith said the practice of raising the scores needed for the scholarships had disproportionately affected and shut out minority students from reaping the benefits of higher education, because minority students were more often living in poverty and may not have access to the resources needed to score higher on tests.

“Starting in 2010, Republicans leaders hiked standards which slashed the number of Bright Futures recipients in half and shut out a disproportionate number of black and Latino students from the program,” Smith said. “We have seen enough cuts to higher education in this legislature. The time in now to reinvest and expand the Bright Futures scholarship to make good on Florida’s commitment to affordable college for everyone.”

Smith’s bill would lower the numbers for the 2018-19 school year to a 1275 on the SAT or a 27 on the ACT to get the Florida Academic Scholars award. Then, in the 2019-20 school year, the requirement would further go down to a 1270 needed on the SAT and a 26 on the ACT. That would make the standard actually lower than that of 2010-11.

Scores needed for the Florida Medallion Scholars award would also similarly be lowered.

The bill will also expand Bright Futures to include summer courses, offer $200 to $300 for textbooks and reinstate the 100 percent and 75 percent tuition reimbursements, which were previously phased out by Republican leaders.

Smith’s bill comes on the heels of other legislation to expand Bright Futures and increase access to education by Senators Joe Negron and Bill Galvano, both Republicans.

“The bipartisan work already happening in the Florida Senate to improve the Bright Futures scholarship should be applauded,” Smith said. “I urge my House colleagues to join me in working together to strengthen and expand Bright Futures, which has become out-of-reach for too many– especially for black, Latino and low income students.”

There will be companion legislation introduced in the Senate this week by Victor Torres, the press release states.

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