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Florida Bright Futures and Florida Prepaid – A Winning Combo!

Florida Prepaid College Plans are a smart and guaranteed way for all Florida residents to save for college.  Most families end up using their plans at Florida schools, but the value of the plans can be applied to most schools nationwide too.

The Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program can also help cover college costs for Florida high school graduates, if they meet certain achievement standards and they attend a Florida College or University.

A common question we get is, “how does Bright Futures work if I also have a Florida Prepaid Plan.”  We’ll address that question in this article, but first a little more about Bright Futures.

In the past, a state-sponsored Bright Futures Scholarship at the highest award level would fully fund tuition and fees for a student attending a Florida College or University. Funding dipped considerably after the 2008 recession, and the academic standards were also tightened over time, leading to fewer students receiving awards.

In 2018, the Legislature voted to fund the program so that students earning the highest scholarship awards would again have 100% of Florida tuition and fees covered.  So it is worth the time to learn if your student could earn a Bright Futures award.

There are several award levels, based on a combination of the student’s GPA, their college entrance exams scores, and the number of service hours they complete.

  • The Florida Academic Scholars (FAS) will receive an award to cover 100% of tuition and applicable fees and $300 for both fall and spring semesters for additional educational expenses (e.g. books).
  • Florida Medallion Scholars (FMS) will receive an award to cover 75% of tuition and applicable fees. The awards can also be used at technical and vocational schools, so don’t think this is just for those working toward a bachelor’s degree.

2018/2019 Scholarship Requirements

Please refer to the Bright Futures handbook for more details on these requirements and awards.

Students with a qualifying GPA and exam scores will also need to complete their service hours to receive the award.

Here are a few important tips about Bright Futures:

  • Tip # 1: The student can and should start earning their service (volunteer) hours during their freshman year in high school.  They can’t start before that or they will not count.  And if they wait until their senior year, it can be difficult to find an approved location to volunteer that has space available. Have your student talk to their guidance counselor if they need ideas and more information.
  • Tip # 2: Treat service hours like a job. The Florida Academic Scholars (FAS) level (the highest level) requires 100 volunteer service hours.  If your student works for 100 hours and is able to receive the Academic Scholars award, this could mean that the student is essentially being paid over $200 for each service hour!  So students should treat the volunteer job like a real job – show up on time, call in if they get sick, and take responsibility and pride in the big impact they can have on helping to pay for their higher education.
  • Tip # 3: Students must apply for the scholarship by submitting the Florida Financial Aid Application (FFAA) no later than August 31 after high school graduation. If a student does not apply for the scholarship by the deadline, a student cannot receive the scholarship.

If you already have a Prepaid Plan for your child, rest assured that Bright Futures and Florida Prepaid Plans work great together.

  • In most cases, the Florida College or University will bill Florida Prepaid first, and then any Bright Futures awards can help cover the remaining expenses that are not covered under the Plan (such as books, transportation or lab fees).
  • The remaining balance of the Bright Futures award will be deposited to the student’s bank account, and those funds could be used toward housing and living expenses.
  • Florida Prepaid Plans and Bright Futures Scholarships can be used during the summer.

Florida Prepaid plan holders can request to defer the use of their Prepaid Plan and use the Bright Futures Scholarship first if they so choose. There are several ways to approach using the combination of a Prepaid Plan and a scholarship, therefore please contact our Customer Service team at 1-800-552-4723 if you have any questions.

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