You drop, you pay
By Sergio Candido
Not even academically excelling scholars are saved from the recession’s impact. Effective since the start of the 2009-2010 school year, the Bright Futures scholarship is making its recipients pay for classes they drop.
According to Angelina Cox, North Campus scholarship coordinator, students must reimburse their award money for the cost of courses they withdraw from after the initial drop and add period—typically a week into the semester.
Miami Dade College students who were not aware of the reform received bills of up to $378 for a three-credit-hour class.
The new law is part of an effort from the Florida Legislature to mitigate the rising state cost of the popular scholarship, funded by Florida Lottery dollars.
Cox also said that non-refunded hours may affect the student’s eligibility for renewal of the scholarship for subsequent academic years. Exceptions for payment of dropped classes will be based on “a verifiable illness or emergency beyond the student’s control,” according to the Bright Futures Web site.
The primary purpose of the dropped class payback is to help the state recoup an estimated $32 million in tuition dollars for these courses, as stated in an article from The Miami Herald.
Financial Aid Director at the Wolfson Campus Jean Monaud Daphnis, who also oversees the Bright Futures program, said that while he understands some of the reasons why the changes were implemented, he “does not support them.”
“They have a costly impact on our students. Students not only have to pay back for classes they withdraw from, but they also have to pay a portion of their tuition,” Daphnis said.
But Roy Barski, a 21-year-old biochemistry major, believes that it makes perfect sense for the state to want its money back.
“Its money wasted,” Barski said. “The state shouldn’t have to be paying for lazy students.”
He said that many students start taking a class, give up at the first sign of failure and then they withdraw from it.
“That money could go to students who really need it,” Barski said.
The measure adds to other recent cuts in the scholarship, which now offers a fixated amount of award money that does not cover the full cost of tuition and fees, instead of funding 100 percent of the students’ in-state tuition for community colleges as it had been since 1997, according to the Bright Futures Web site.
The change represents a dramatic shift in Bright Futures policy that will affect tens of thousands of Florida families who count on the program when budgeting for college.
Cox said that no formal complaints have been filled by students at the North Campus.
“Now [students] will seriously consider dropping a class, knowing they will be billed for it,” Cox said.
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