The future of Florida's Bright Future scholarships

TAMPA, Fla.  (WFLA) – It's a scholarship designed for college students who excel in their studies, but some question the 20-year-old program known as Bright Futures.

Bright Futures is a scholarship program in the state of Florida that is funded by the Florida Lottery and was first started in 1997.

Students who get good grades can often get some type of scholarship from the program though this year, the best ones can essentially get a free ride for the entire year, including the summer.

"I've always wanted to become a doctor," said Kareem Elgendi, a sophomore at USF majoring in biomedical sciences.

He relies heavily on scholarship money and that could pose a problem in the future.

"It's kind of scary," he said when asked about the fate of his education possibly being in the hands of Florida lawmakers.

What scares Kareem and countless others is the program's future.

The merit-based program continues to change how much money students get through the years.

"You know all these students have worked so hard to qualify for this, it's truly unfair that they are caught up in our political games that carry on sometimes in Tallahassee," said Janet Cruz, House Minority Leader told news Channel 8.

During this school year, Bright Futures will cover all tuition and fees for Kareem and countless others across the state.

Last year, Kareem received half of that amount and he says it's anybody's guess how much he'll get next year.

"Hopefully, it will be able to be re-visited in the upcoming legislative session and go in permanently," said Billie Jo Hamilton, Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Planning & Management at USF.

That's exactly what Kareem hopes will happen.

"Because I mean we are the future," Kareem said.

Governor Rick Scott told lawmakers earlier this year that he hoped they'd consider legislation to expand the program when they convene again.

Be sure to watch WFLA News Channel 8 from 4:30 to 7 a.m. during the month of August. Every morning, we'll bring you a special back-to-school story to help you and your family prepare for the school year.

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