PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — This year’s senior class now has new options when it comes to fulfilling their Bright Futures requirements.

What You Need To Know

  • Volunteer hours can now be paid work hours 

  •  Students no longer need to declare social issue for volunteer portion

  •  More students now eligible for Bright Futures under loosened requirements

  • 120,000 students received scholarship last year

Instead of the previously required 100 volunteer hours needed to attain Bright Future’s Florida Academic Scholar standing, students may now submit 100 paid work hours instead. This highest-level Bright Futures ranking would allow students to get 100% of their state college tuition paid for, if attending school in Florida.

This change makes more high school seniors eligible for the merit-based scholarship.

“Many students last year would tell me that, ‘I wasn’t able to volunteer, I wasn’t able to get there,’ so it’s really helpful to those families and they typically have more financial need,” explained Valerie Santos, K-12 School Counseling Specialist for the Pinellas County School District.

Santos said that in previous years, she had a handful of students at every Pinellas County high school who would have qualified for Bright Futures if it weren’t for the volunteer requirement. These were students who had to work after school, care for a sibling or didn’t have a parent with a vehicle.

“To me it’s huge,” Santos said. “Those students who are working might have a bigger need.”

In addition to the 100 volunteer/work hours requirement, students must have a 3.5 GPA in core classes, a 1330 SAT score or a 29 ACT score in order to qualify.

During a scheduled meeting Tuesday, the Pinellas County School Board plans to talk about these changes and vote to formally adopt them.