OPPAGA text logo with graphic of FL historic capitol
OPPAGA text logo with graphic of FL historic capitol

Education System

Student Financial Assistance

What is the purpose of the program?

The Student Financial Assistance Program provides students attending Florida public and private postsecondary educational institutions access to state administered grants, loans, and scholarships.

What entity implements this program?

The program is provided through the Office of Student Financial Assistance (OFSA) and local educational institutions. OSFA is located within the Florida Department of Education and administers both state and federal student financial assistance programs. OSFA is the designated guaranty agency for the state of Florida and had until recently guaranteed Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) for more than 40 years.

However, since the enactment of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (H.R. 4872), OSFA no longer has the authority to insure new loans under the FFELP. Although OSFA no longer guarantees federal student loans, OSFA continues to provide life-of-the-loan support for loans remaining in their portfolio.

Lastly, institutional financial aid administrators also play an important role in the financial aid process by helping students to identify financial aid programs and complete applications, and by providing guidance to students on ways to make smart borrowing decisions.

What types of financial assistance are available?

Students receive state funded financial assistance through scholarship or grant programs that do not require repayment or low-interest loan programs that do require repayment. The programs include merit-based, need-based, professional, and special interest programs. More detailed information about available financial assistance can be found on the department's website.
  • Merit-based programs reward academic merit or achievement. State merit-based programs include:
  • Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program. Created in 1997 and funded by the Florida Lottery, the program provides scholarships to students who take the necessary high school courses, earn sufficiently high GPA, complete the required number of service hours, and achieve sufficiently high scores on college entrance exams.
  • Benacquisto Scholarship Program. The program was created in 2014 and was formerly known as the Florida National Merit Scholar Incentive Program. Provides scholarships to any Florida high school graduate and for any eligible student who is not a resident of the state who receives recognition as a National Merit Scholar or National Achievement Scholar and who initially enrolls in a baccalaureate degree program at an eligible, regionally accredited, Florida public or independent postsecondary educational institution.  
  • Need-based programs require students to demonstrate financial need. State need-based programs include:
  • First Generation Matching Grant Program. Created in 2006, the program provides need-based grants to degree-seeking, undergraduate Florida residents whose parents have not earned baccalaureate degrees. Available state funds are contingent upon matching contributions from private sources on a dollar-for-dollar basis at Florida's 12 state universities and 28 Florida College System institutions.
  • Florida Education Fund. Established in 1984, the fund (not-for-profit corporation) has implemented programs that lead to greater advancement for historically under-represented groups that include the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship and the Centers of Excellence.
  • Florida Prepaid College Foundation. Created in 1989, the direct support organization of the Florida Prepaid College Board has provided scholarships for the following scholarship programs: Project STARS, Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, First Generation, Academic A+, In-Demand Careers, and Legacy. The Foundation also works with private donors, like community groups, businesses, hospitals and religious organizations, to provide privately funded scholarships for deserving students.
  • Florida Student Assistance Grant (FSAG). Created in 1972, the program, Florida's largest need-based grant program, provides grants to undergraduate degree or certificate-seeking Florida residents who attend a public or private institution in Florida. The FSAG Program comprises four separately funded student financial aid programs: FSAG Public; FSAG Private; FSAG Postsecondary; and FSAG Public Postsecondary Career Education.
  • Florida Work Experience Program (FWEP). Created in 1993, the program provides need-based financial assistance to students as they are employed in occupations complementary to their educational endeavors and career goals. The 2007 Florida Legislature expanded the FWEP to serve students at postsecondary institutions by providing additional on-campus employment opportunities, helping to keep students in school and reducing students' school loans.
  • José Martí Scholarship Challenge Grant Program. Created in 1986, the program assists Florida's Hispanic-American high school graduates with financial need and rewards them for their academic achievement.
  • Mary McLeod Bethune Scholarship Program. Created in 1989, the program provides financial assistance to undergraduate students with financial need who attend one of four historically black colleges and universities and meet specific scholastic requirements. Available funds are contingent upon matching contributions from private sources on behalf of eligible institutions.
  • Rosewood Family Scholarship Program. Created in 1994, the program provides need-based financial assistance to direct descendants of Rosewood families affected by the incidents of January 1923.
  • Special interest programs are designed to serve specific groups of students. State special interest programs include:
  • Access to Better Learning and Education Grant Program (ABLE). Created in 2004, the program provides tuition assistance to Florida undergraduate students enrolled in degree programs at eligible private Florida colleges or universities.
  • Florida Farmworker Student Scholarship Program. Created in 2018 (see Ch. 2018-4, Laws of Florida), the program provides up to 50 scholarships to be awarded annually to farmworkers and the children of farmworkers who meet the scholarship eligibility criteria.
  • Minority Teacher Education Scholarship Program. The program was created in 1996 and awards the scholarship to minority college students (juniors and seniors) pursuing teaching careers in Florida's public school system. Upon graduation, recipients are required to teach one year in a Florida public school for each year they received the scholarship. This program is decentralized and administered by the Florida Fund for Minority Teachers, Inc.
  • Honorably Discharged Graduate Assistance Program. The program has been funded in the annual General Appropriations Act since 2015 as a supplemental, need-based veteran educational benefit. Funds are used to assist in the payment of living expenses during holiday and semester breaks for active duty and honorably discharged members of the Armed Forces who served on or after September 11, 2001.
  • Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Program. The Florida Legislature established the program in 1989 to encourage qualified personnel to seek employment in areas of the state where critical nursing shortages exist. The program provides funds to assist in the repayment of nursing education loans.
  • Postsecondary Education Services and Support (PESS). PESS is a state program for eligible former foster youth to receive the skills, education, and support necessary to become self-sufficient and have lifelong connections to supportive adults. Depending on certain statutory conditions, eligible youth may receive a monthly financial payment that may include applicable Education and Training Voucher (ETV) funding. The financial award is to secure housing, utilities, and assist with cost of living while attending a Florida Bright Futures-eligible postsecondary educational institution.
  • Scholarships for Children and Spouses of Deceased or Disabled Veterans. In effect since 1941, the program provides scholarships for dependent children and un-remarried spouses of Florida veterans who died as a result of service-connected injuries, diseases, or disabilities sustained while on active duty.
  • Effective Access to Student Education Grant Program (EASE). Created in 1979 as the Florida Resident Access Grant Program (FRAG) and renamed in 2018 (see Ch. 2018-4, Laws of Florida), the program provides tuition assistance to undergraduate students enrolled in degree programs at eligible independent, nonprofit colleges or universities in Florida.
  • The Theodore R. and Vivian M. Johnson Scholarship Program. Section 1009.74, Florida Statutes, authorizes the Johnson Scholarship Program, which is a need-based scholarship program for undergraduate, degree-seeking students with disabilities attending public universities in Florida. The program is supported by contributions from the Johnson Scholarship Foundation and state support.

How many students received state financial assistance by major program?

The number of students receiving awards from several major programs is shown below. A summary of award recipients for all programs administered by the state can be found in OSFA's annual report.
Number of Student Awards in Fiscal Year 2018-19
Program Number of Students
Access to Better Learning and Education Grant 2,298
Florida Bright Futures Scholarship 101,579
Effective Access to Student Education Grant Program 45,803
Florida Student Assistance Grant 183,225
Source: Annual Report to the Commissioner 2018-19, Department of Education, Office of Student Financial Assistance.

How are these activities funded?

The student financial assistance programs are funded through lottery educational enhancement trust funds, general revenue, and federal flow-through dollars.
Fiscal Year: 2020-21
Fund Dollars Positions
OFFICE OF STUDENT FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE
PROGRAM: STUDENT FINANCIAL AID PROGRAM - FEDERAL
105,000
.00
PROGRAM: STUDENT FINANCIAL AID PROGRAM - STATE
984,759,452
.00
TOTAL
984,864,452
.00

Updates

Postsecondary Scholarship and Grant Programs. The 2020 Florida Legislature enacted Chapter 2020-117, Laws of Florida, which among other things modifies certain merit- and need-based grant programs. Specifically the bill:

  • modifies the Florida Student Assistance Grant (FSAG) programs to authorize a student who received an FSAG award in a fall or spring term to receive an award during the summer term, prioritizes the distribution of grant funds to students who are within one semester of completing a degree or certificate program, and modifies the maximum expected family contribution;
  • modifies the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Florida Academic Scholars award to provide an annual stipend as specified in the General Appropriations Act, rather than specifying the amount of $300;
  • modifies the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Florida Medallion Scholars award to specify that, beginning in the fall 2021 semester, a Florida Medallion Scholar who is enrolled in an associate degree program at an FCS institution is eligible for an award equal to the amount necessary to pay 100% of tuition and fees; and
  • clarifies provisions related to the Benacquisto Scholarship Program to require a scholarship renewal student to be enrolled full-time, except for the last term before graduation, and specifies limitations for the duration of an award. 

Where can I find related OPPAGA reports?

A complete list of related OPPAGA reports is available on our website.

Where can I get more information?

Other Reports
Department of Education - Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) System - Information Technology Operational Audit, Auditor General Report No. 2018-196, March 2018

Administration of the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program by Florida's Public Universities and Colleges - Operational Audit, Auditor General Report No. 2018-212, June 2018.

2018-19 Annual Report to the Commissioner, Office of Financial Student Assistance, August 2019.

Florida Legislative Updates and History for State Scholarship and Grant Programs, Office of Financial Student Assistance. 

Websites of Interest
Florida Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators
Information for Financial Aid Professionals (IFAP)
Federal Student Aid
Performance Information


Performance measures and standards for the department may be found in its Long Range Program Plan.

What are the applicable statutes?

Chapter 1009 Part III, Florida Statutes.

Whom do I contact for help?

Lou Anne Standley, Executive Staff Director, Office of Student Financial Assitance, 1-800-366-3475 or 850-410-5200, email:  OSFAStudentLoans@fldoe.org or OSFA@fldoe.org

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