Waive SAT/ACT and Service Hours for Bright Futures Scholarship for Class of 2020.

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The unprecedented growth and spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. has impacted the nation in many ways such as widespread cancellations of sporting events, closure of many businesses, and government orders for those who are non essential workers to stay at home. This pandemic has also lead to the cancellation and postponement of the March 25, and May 2 SAT testing days with also uncertainty looming over the June 6 date of the SAT, and the June 13 date for the ACT. This is important is because of first the deadlines to meet the requirements for the bright futures scholarship. According to the Bright Futures student handbook "The ACT®/SAT® exams may be taken an unlimited number of times through June 30 of the student’s graduation year (or through January 31 for mid-year graduates)". With the uncertainty looming over the SAT and ACT dates scheduled in June this may leave students who meet the weighted GPA requirement and community service hours requirement but need to improve their SAT/ACT score with little to no opportunity to do so because of circumstances that were simply out of their control.

In addition, both of the bright futures scholarships which are the Florida Academic Scholars (FAS) and the Florida Medallion Scholars (FMS) require a set number of community service hours 100 hours for the (FAS) and 75 hours for the (FMS) respectively. According to the Bright Futures student handbook "Students must complete service hours during high school and by high school graduation...".  This brings up the issue for those who meet the GPA and SAT/ACT requirement but have not yet fulfilled the required community service hours.  These students are simply unable to rack up these hours during such a crucial period time of the year like spring break. The last days of school for class of 2020 seniors is approaching quickly and due to the stay in place orders issued by many counties and cities in Florida for non essential workers to stay home, there is no opportunity to complete community service hours. The stay in place orders are scheduled to last until April 9 but with 50 confirmed cases and counting of the coronavirus,  it's reasonable to believe the order may be extended to an even longer term. 

It is important to highlight the impact this pandemic will have if these requirements are not waived. In 2011 the Florida legislature enacted cuts to Bright Future funding which went into effect for the 2014 graduating class. To compensate and reduce the amount of scholarships available,  they raised the minimum test scores. These cuts have disproportionately impacted black and Latino students as well as students from predominantly poor schools.  In 2014, the United States Department of Education launched an investigation of the Bright Futures program due to allegations of racial bias against black and Latino students, focusing particularly on its effects on students from Miami-Dade County and at Florida International University. The department ultimately found evidence of disparate impacts on minorities but no evidence of discriminatory intent. Despite the lack of intent the effects on minority students had a detrimental impact on access to education. One of the effects of the pandemic is the inability to go to work. Many minority and low income students' families will become further economically disadvantaged and create a bigger financial obstacle for them to be able to afford to send a child to get a college education. By waiving the SAT/ACT and community service hours requirement, this would help socially and economically disadvantaged students qualify for the scholarships and these are the same groups of students who have been historically unable to afford a college education without financial assistance.

Considering all of the factors discussed here and the unpredictable nature of the coronavirus and its effects on the future of 2020 Florida high school seniors we believe it is imperative that the SAT/ACT and community service requirements for both of the bright futures scholarships (FAS) and (FMS) be waived for the class of 2020.