- Associated Press - Friday, December 25, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansans applying for the lottery-financed Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarships face new eligibility requirements and, if they meet them, will be awarded smaller amounts during their first year of college.

Brett Powell, director of the state Department of Higher Education, said the application period for state-funded financial aid opens Jan. 1, and the deadline to apply for the Academic Challenge Scholarships is June 1.

A new law enacted earlier this year requires high school graduates to have ACT scores of at least 19 or the equivalent on comparable college entrance exams to be eligible for a scholarship. The requirement applies to high school graduating classes starting in 2016, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Friday (https://bit.ly/1J821E1 ).

High school graduates previously were required to complete the Smart Core curriculum and achieve either a high school grade-point average of at least 2.5 or a minimum score of 19 on the ACT or its equivalent.

Under the law, the scholarship size for future recipients will be reduced from $2,000 to $1,000 for the freshman year at two- and four-year colleges.

Scholarships will increase from $3,000 to $4,000 for the sophomore year at four-year colleges and from $2,000 to $3,000 at two-year colleges.

Scholarship recipients will receive $4,000 as juniors and $5,000 as seniors at four-year colleges.

Supporters of the law said it would shift scholarship money to students who completed their studies and help guard against the scholarship program running short of funds. Critics said they worried it would hurt poor and minority students.

“With the first-year award moving to $1,000, that results in a $1.8 million savings in year one,” Powell said.

More than 30,000 students have received Academic Challenge Scholarships during each of the past six fiscal years.

The scholarship program is financed through the lottery’s net proceeds and $20 million a year in state general revenue. Lottery revenue and net proceeds for college scholarships have declined each of the past three years, though during the first five months in fiscal year that started July 1 they’ve exceeded figures for the same period last year.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com


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