Bright Flight scholarship faces potential reduction for spring semester

Students could potentially lose $300 in scholarship funds.

Sophomore Abby Guinn, a recipient of the Bright Flight scholarship, received an unexpected email from the Office of Student Financial Aid on Oct. 9. The email informed her that all Bright Flight recipients will potentially receive $300 less than the originally promised amount at the spring disbursement date.

Guinn said the news came as a shock. The Bright Flight scholarship is one of three for her, and its importance in financing her college tuition is significant.

“I wouldn’t be able to attend Mizzou without [scholarships],” she said.

This is not the first time funding for the scholarship has been low. In recent years, the scholarship was not fully funded in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, said Liz Coleman, director of communications and marketing at the state Department of Higher Education.

The Bright Flight scholarship is an academic achievement award. Any eligible Missouri high school student may receive the scholarship. To be eligible, a student must be a Missouri resident and a U.S. citizen, they must have a composite score on the ACT or SAT in the top three percent of all Missouri high school students, with a minimum score of 31 on the ACT or 780 in math and 790 in verbal on the SAT, and they must plan to stay in-state for college.

“It’s a scholarship based on academic merit; it’s not easy to get,” Guinn said. “It was nice receiving such a large amount towards tuition based on something I achieved.”

Coleman said the potential reduction is due to an unexpected increase in the number of students who applied and received the scholarship at the start of this academic year.

“The scholarship is a state-funded financial aid program,” Coleman said. “Every year the department requests a certain amount for the scholarship from the state based on how many students we predict will receive it. This year we had more students than expected, and the funds weren't enough.”

The email was in response to a notification the financial aid office previously received from the Missouri Department of Higher Education that shows a deficit in the funding available for the spring portion of the scholarship.

The amount of the scholarship depends on the student’s test scores and how much the Department of Higher Education requests for that academic year. The maximum amount for the 2016-17 school year was $3,000, split into $1,500 each semester. The scholarship is available to renew for four years of college, as long as students maintain a certain GPA.

The scholarship decrease is not yet a certainty because the department plans to request an increase from the general assembly in January, but a decision may not be made until spring. If the funds are approved, students can expect a reimbursement.

As to how likely an approval is, Coleman said she is optimistic.

“Usually the assembly provides the requested amount,” Coleman said. “It depends on the money that’s available, but they usually do.”

However, a lack of funds may cause the promised $1,500 to drop to $1,200, a change that wouldn’t go unnoticed to many students.

“It’s not going to make or break me being able to attend college, but it’s disappointing for sure,” Guinn said.

Last year, there were about 6,700 students who received the scholarship, including those who renewed. This year saw a jump to about 7,000 that the department hadn’t been anticipating. Coleman said the cause is most likely due to a few factors such as increased knowledge about the scholarship, more students taking the ACT or SAT and a higher number meeting the requirements. With the implementation of a new program for Missouri high school students that offers the ACT for free, the number of recipients is expected to increase next year as well.

Edited by Claire Mitzel |

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