Correct the Bright Futures STEM Disincentive by Setting Different GPA Requirements for STEM Fields, Says Professor Hu

FSU’s Professor Shouping Hu, the higher ed researcher who found that Bright Futures scholarship policies discourage students from majoring in math, science and engineering, has recommended that a change be made in the GPA requirements for renewal to remove this disincentive.

Several years ago, Hu found that students believe that professors in the STEM fields award lower grades in their courses, and that it is more difficult for science, engineering and math majors to maintain the minimum GPA’s required by the State of Florida for renewals of their Bright Futures scholarships than it is for other students.  Some students decide not to major in these areas for fear of losing their scholarships.  A report on Hu’s findings was published in the May 29, 2008 issue of Inside Higher Ed.

In an e-mail to this blogger this week, Hu recommended that the requirements for Bright Futures renewal be changed to deal with this perception by making the GPA requirements lower for majors in science, engineering and math than for students in other fields.  Hu said that not only would this change “mitigate the different grading standard” but it would also “signify the policy priority of the state” to educate more scientists, engineers and mathematicians.

The Bright Futures program includes two tracks for college and university students, Florida Academic Scholars and Florida Medallion Scholars, of which the Academic Scholars track has more demanding requirements for high school grades and standardized test scores.  Academic Scholars receive $126 per credit hour – or $3780 for a 30 credit hour academic year load – at a state university.  Medallion Scholars receive $95 per credit hour ($2850 for a 30 credit hour academic year).

Florida Academic Scholars are required to maintain a 3.0 GPA for renewal of their scholarships, while the renewal requirement for Medallion Scholars is 2.75.  In 2009-2010, both programs require that students register for a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester.  In previous years, students had only been required to register for 6 credit hours per semester.

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2 Responses to Correct the Bright Futures STEM Disincentive by Setting Different GPA Requirements for STEM Fields, Says Professor Hu

  1. DSW says:

    It’s a great idea to implement a policy direction, but it has to be adequately funded. Bright Futures is on shaky ground as it is now.

    • Paul Cottle says:

      This can be a budget savings. Let’s say that for STEM majors we leave the renewal GPA’s where they are and raise the renewal GPA’s by a quarter point for all other fields. The real question about such a proposal is whether it would be seen as political suicide by legislators.

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