State lawmakers have bumped state funding for the merit-based Bright Futures scholarships to $545 million this academic year, up from $520 million approved last spring.
The funding comes from proceeds from the Florida Lottery.
The $25 million in extra funds will cover the nearly 6 percent unexpected increase in students qualifying for the scholarships.
The awards are based on a student’s academic performance in high school, including grade point averages and scores on tests such as the SAT college entrance exam.
In total, nearly 100,000 university and state college students will use the awards this year, which allow kids — and families — to keep the cost of higher education at an affordable level.
For example, some 52,179 students will qualify as “academic scholars” for the top Bright Futures award, which covers full tuition and fees and provides $300 for books in the fall and spring semesters.
Another 46,216 students will qualify as “medallion scholars,” with the scholarships paying for 75 percent of their tuition and fees.
In December, state analysts said the increase in the Bright Future scholars could not be fully explained.
But they said factors include more students qualifying through programs such as the International Baccalaureate, changes in qualifications for home-schooled students and higher SAT scores. Most of the scholarships go to kids attending one of 12 state universities in Florida.
Florida continues to provide higher education at one of the lowest costs to students in the country.
Last fall, the College Board, best known for the SAT exam, reported Florida’s annual average of $6,360 in tuition and fees to attend a public four-year university ranked second lowest in the nation, below the national average of $10,230.