JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - For the second straight year, Missouri students striving to receive a Bright Flight scholarship will be eyeing the number 31, according to information just released by the Missouri Department of Higher Education (MDHE). That's because high school seniors graduating in the class of 2009 will need an ACT composite score of 31 to be eligible for the prestigious scholarship when heading off to college for the 2009-2010 academic year.

More commonly known as "Bright Flight," the Missouri Higher Education Academic Scholarship Program encourages top-ranked high school seniors to attend college within the Show-Me State by rewarding the top three percent of all Missouri students taking the ACT test with a $2,000 annual award.

Each fall ACT releases data on test takers for the previous year, and the MDHE analyzes the information to identify students with a qualifying Bright Flight score for the next academic year. Therefore, today's announcement of the qualifying ACT score of 31 for the class of 2009 is based on the test results of Missouri's 2008 high school seniors. The announcement comes amid news that the average ACT scores for the high school class of 2008 have dipped slightly, while the number of students taking the college entrance and placement exam has increased.

The top three percent of Missouri SAT test takers may also qualify for the Bright Flight scholarship. Official SAT qualifying scores for the class of 2009 will be announced soon.

In order to be eligible for a Bright Flight award, today's high school seniors must achieve the qualifying ACT or SAT scores by the June 2009 test date. They must also be Missouri residents, plan to attend an approved Missouri postsecondary institution during the 2009-2010 academic year, and not be pursuing a degree or certificate in theology or divinity.

Under the Bright Flight program, $16.8 million was distributed to 8,760 students during the 2007-2008 academic year, representing an increase of approximately $700,000 and 300 students from the previous year.