Blacks Win Only a Tiny Share of Florida’s Merit-Based College Scholarships

Students in Florida who graduate from high school with a 3.5 grade point average are eligible for a Bright Futures scholarship which will pay full tuition at a state university. Students with a 3.0 GPA can have the state pay 75 percent of their tuition costs.

The Bright Futures program began in 1997 with 42,000 students and a price tag of $70 million. Now the program has mushroomed to 150,000 students and costs the state nearly $400 million. State estimates show the price tag rising to $867 million over the next decade. The program is financed from proceeds of the Florida Lottery.

But these merit-based college scholarships have gone mostly to white middle-class students. Blacks are about 15 percent of the college-age population in Florida. But in 2007 blacks made up only 3 percent of the students who won full-tuition scholarships under the Bright Futures program.

The Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state’s public universities, has called for changes in the program so that more of the aid would go to low-income families. But the GOP-controlled state legislature has shown reluctance to make any changes.