Friday, January 8, 2010

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review

LITTLE ROCK – The state of Arkansas offers 21 different scholarships, and now students can apply for all of them in one single process.

The YOUniversal Arkansas Financial Aid System is designed to help students, parents and guidance counselors. Students can fill out the application process within minutes and the system will let them know the scholarships for which they qualify. Basically they provide their age, their grade point average, their standardized test scores and their family's income.

As the governor said at the announcement of the system, the previous process of applying for all the available financial aid was as time-consuming and complex as filling out a tax return. It was necessary to fill out an application for each scholarship, whereas now just one application is required for all state sponsored scholarships.

According to educators, the two major obstacles keeping people out of college are the lack of money and inadequate academic preparation.

To apply for the scholarships, go to the web site of the state Department of Higher Education. It is at

On the left side of the page is a link to the YOUniversal Arkansas Financial Aid System. Click on the link and you can begin the process of applying. So far more than 2,000 people have applied on line for scholarships. If you don't have access to a computer you can call the department, toll free, at this number: 1-800-54-STUDY.

Last fall more than 154,000 students were enrolled in Arkansas colleges and universities. That was a record number. Another 11,000 high school students enrolled in college courses, so total enrollment in the state was about 165,000.

Revenue Declines

The December revenue report showed a decline in activity across several economic categories. For example, sales tax collections were almost $19 million lower than in December of the previous year.

Individual income taxes were $12 million less than last year, which reflects a drop in employment. Corporate income taxes were down $5.2 million.

In all, net general revenue is now almost $55 million below forecasts for the fiscal year. Before the grim revenue report came out, state budget officials had predicted that net revenue for this fiscal year would total almost $2.3 billion.

The legislature will convene its first ever fiscal session on February 8, and it looks as if budget reductions will be necessary for the remainder of this fiscal year. Also during the session, legislators will approve budgets for state agencies for Fiscal Year 2011, which begins July 1 of this year.

State agencies that rely on general revenue must operate under balanced budgets. When tax collections fall off due to slowing economic activity, state agencies must reduce spending. General revenue comes mostly from sales taxes and income taxes.

The state can borrow money from the federal government to pay unemployment insurance claims. More than 101,000 Arkansans had no jobs last month. The state was on a pace to owe the federal government $350 million, according to reports by The City Wire of Fort Smith, which interviewed officials of the Workforce Services Department.

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