New law changes requirements for Florida Bright Futures scholarship

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 461, which changed the requirements for the Bright Futures Scholarships, on June. 27, 2022. The new bill allows students to use work hours in place of community service hours.

The Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program is a scholarship program based on academic achievement funded by the Florida Lottery. In order to apply for a scholarship through the program, high school seniors must be a Florida resident, submit a Florida Financial Aid Application, earn a high school diploma, not be convicted of a felony charge, be enrolled in six non-remedial credit hours per term and gain either 100 work hours or 100 community service hours. 

 If chosen for one of many scholarships provided through the program, students can earn up to 100% tuition assistance. 

“I think the program has helped a lot of students and it continues to help a lot of students. And, I think it’s good to reward students for what they did positively,” Jennifer Sparks, Jupiter High English teacher and honor societies sponsor, said. “So if a student put in all that effort on top of their grades, on top of their sport, on top of their clubs, there should be something that comes with it.” 

However, some issues have been brought up. For students who work, 100 community service hours can be difficult to obtain.

“I work a lot, so It’s kind of difficult to do extracurricular things,” Nathaniel Gorzynski, senior, said. 

The new law takes effect for the class of 2023. Community service and work hours can not be mixed; either 100 community service hours or 100 work hours must be earned. Also, all scholarships included under Bright Futures like the Florida Academic Scholarship, the Florida Medallion Scholarship, the Gold Seal CAPE and the Gold Seal Vocational require a minimum of 100 work hours while the minimum amount of community service hours varies. 

“If you’re somebody having to actually work, particularly as a high school student, to be able to help your family, those hours should also count toward the community service hours so that you, too, can be eligible for the Bright Futures scholarship,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in his Hillsborough Community College speech. 

The bill will allow more students to receive the financial aid given to them through the scholarship. 

“For a student who works a lot, especially if they’re [the] one providing for their family and they don’t have the time, or as many opportunities to go out and volunteer, being able to use their work hours to get [the scholarship] is so amazing,” Elizabeth Cappiello, junior, said.

While this law applies to Bright Futures Scholarships, work hours do not apply to the 20 hours needed to graduate. 

“It makes sense. For graduation you only need 20 hours,” Sparks said. “So, 20 hours is completely feasible over the course of four years, however if someone has to work, to get a hundred hours is taxing.”