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Audit finds issues with Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program

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(The Center Square) — The Florida Auditor General has released a report detailing problems with the administration of the state’s scholarship and grant programs.

The audit was focused on the administration of both scholarship programs between June 30, 2022, and June 30, 2023.

The Bright Futures Scholarship Program disbursed $547,700,035 in fiscal year 2022-23. A slight drop over the previous FY of 2021-22, which disbursed $549,061,819.

The audit found three issues, this included the return of advances without identifying students who may be eligible, non-compliance with state law and Florida Department of Education policies, as well as the need to improve disbursement of funds in a timely manner.

The Legislature established the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program to provide scholarships to Florida high school students who merit recognition of high academic achievement, and enroll in a degree, certificate, or applied technology program at an eligible in-state college or university.

The program, funded by the Florida Lottery, consists of four different awards: The Florida Academic Scholarship, the Florida Medallion Scholarship, the Florida Gold Seal CAPE Scholarship, and the Florida Gold Seal Vocational Scholarship.

Also part of the Auditor General’s report was the Florida Public Student Assistance Grant Program, established to provide financial assistance to Florida resident students seeking a degree from Florida public universities or colleges.

The report states that Eastern Florida State College returned around $1.2 million worth of FSAG-Public Program advances, contrary to State Board of Education rules. The Auditor General recommended that management at the college continue its efforts to ensure that all eligible students are able to receive the advance and records are properly reported to the FDOE.

The audit also found that the University of South Florida had failed to comply with state law regarding the refund of Bright Futures Scholarship Program funds from students who withdrew or dropped a course on time. The report adds that the university made 146 refunds to the FDOE which totaled $141,476, on average 99 days after the required date.

Lastly, the report found that Pensacola State College needed to improve its procedures to ensure that Bright Futures and the grant program funds received were more promptly put on record when funds are disbursed to students.