In Florida, very few students are able to outright pay for their college tuition. The majority of students rely on some form of financial aid to cover the costs of college. While financial aid is very helpful, students must be careful with what they accept. It is not uncommon for students to graduate with heavy debt because they took out too many student loans.
Fortunately, student loans are not the only source of financial aid available in Florida. Many students are eligible for different scholarships in the state, which is a great way to help pay for college. It is important for students to understand the difference between educational grants and scholarships. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they have very different eligibility requirements. Educational grants are provided based on needs. Primarily, they are intended for low-income families. Scholarships are provided based on educational merits, with many of the requirements being based on GPA. In addition, most scholarships require the student to attend school full time, or at least take classes worth a certain amount of credits. There are a few select programs which have both need and educational based merits.
Scholarships are not universally accepted at every college in Florida. Before committing to a college, students are encouraged to check with the institution to make sure they accept the scholarship. Students should also keep an eye out for which scholarships provide a renewal reward in the following years, and whether there are specific eligibility requirements to keep receiving the scholarship.
Access to Better Learning and Education Grant Program (ABLE)
ABLE is available to Florida students that have not already received a bachelor degree. In addition, students cannot be pursuing a degree that relates to theology or divinity. Students must also not owe any repayments or have previously defaulted on any grants, loans or scholarships. In addition, students must be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours each semester. Students may reapply for the ABLE scholarship at the end of the year, as long as they have at least a 2.0 GPA, and have accumulated 12 or more credits during the school year.
The amount available from the ABLE scholarship is determined each year by the General Appropriation Act Legislator each year. The school the student is attending also has an impact on how much they receive. As of writing, students typically receive on average $1,500 dollars from the ABLE.
Benacquisto Scholarship Program
The Benacquisto Scholarship is one of the newest scholarships in Florida, having first been introduced in 2013. In order to qualify for this scholarship, students must be recognized as a National Merit Scholar. For the purpose of qualifying, students may also receive a corporate- or college-sponsored Merit Scholarship. Students receive an initial sum when they are recognized as a National Merit Scholar. Students that receive this scholarship will be awarded the amount of attendance cost for the school, minus whatever they have already received from being recognized as a National Merit Scholar.
Students may renew the scholarship at the end of the year, as long as they have a GPA of at least 3.0. While the Benacquisto Scholarship is one of the highest paying scholarships, it is only accepted in a handful of colleges throughout the state.
Mary McLeod Bethune Scholarship Program (MMB)
The MMB is technically considered a scholarship, although it shares some similarities with educational grants. In order to qualify for the MMB, students must have a 3.0 GPA, but they must also demonstrate financial need for the college they are attending. What constitutes as financial need varies depending on the college the student is applying for. Students may reapply for the MMB as long as they earn 12 credits at the end of the year, and maintain a 3.0 GPA. Depending on the number of applicants, colleges may choose to award the MMB based on which student has the highest GPA.
Minority Teacher Education Scholars Program (MTES)
MTES is provided through the Florida Fund for Minority Teachers. This scholarship is only available to Florida residents who are African-American, Hispanic-American, Native American or Asian-American teachers. In addition to submitting an application, students are required to write a 100 to 300 word essay explaining why they deserve the scholarship. Students may only apply for the application if they have less than 18 hours of upper level education classes. Finally, they must be accepted into one of the teacher education programs from a Florida university.
Students are not required to submit a renewal application to keep receiving benefits. However, in order to maintain the MTES benefits, students must have at least a 2.5 GPA.
Bright Futures Scholarships
In the state of Florida, high school seniors who have maintained a good GPA and have contributed many hours of community service can qualify to receive a discount on tuition to a Florida school. The scholarship has several levels of award, much of it based on the community service hours and GPA of the student. This is not a needs-based scholarship and is available, at the time of writing, to any student attending an accredited high school in Florida and who meets eligibility criteria.