Thursday, April 28, 2011

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review

LITTLE ROCK – The deadline to apply for Academic Challenge Scholarships for next school year is June 1.

The Department of Higher Education has a newly re-designed web page that focuses viewer attention on how to apply for college scholarships. Also, the Department has a new "app" that people with smart phones can use to apply for financial aid and to keep track of their application status.

An "app" is the shortened form of an "application." In this context it doesn't mean the application process for a scholarship, rather it refers to an application or use of communications technology. Apps show up on the screens of smart phones like shortcuts appear on computer screens, or desktops. A smart phone is a cell phone with Internet access.

To apply for Academic Challenge Scholarships or to download the Higher Education Department's new app, go to this Internet address:

Another date to keep in mind, in addition to the June 1 deadline for students to apply is June 15. That is when supporting materials such as transcripts must be submitted to the Higher Education Department.

On the Higher Education Department web page are a couple of places you can click that will open scholarship application forms. One is labeled Academic Challenge Scholarships. Another scholarship application form is labeled YOUniversal, Arkansas Financial Aid System. YOUniversal refers to the fact that filling out a single form submits an application to all 21 state-sponsored scholarship programs.

One scholarship program is for children of military personnel who were killed in the line of duty. Another is for students who are going back to college after taking time off. Another is for teachers, another is based solely on the student's financial needs. When you fill out the YOUniversal form you will learn which of the various scholarships you are eligible for.

The Academic Challenge Scholarship has become the most popular in Arkansas because it is funded by the lottery. Before the lottery was approved by voters, about 8,000 students a year got the scholarships. Last year 31,031 Arkansas students received Academic Challenge scholarships worth $123 million.

About 22,000 recipients attended four-year universities. They received scholarships of $5,000. Those who attended two-year colleges received $2,500. They will get the same amount next school year if they have maintained a grade point average of 2.5 on a scale of 4 and if they completed enough hours. There are other criteria too, which are listed on the Higher Education Department's web page.

Students who apply this year for the first time will not get as much because lottery sales have flattened. Scholarships for students at four-year universities will be $4,500 and at two-year colleges the amounts will be $2,250.

Estimates of future lottery ticket sales were a factor in lowering scholarship amounts next year. Higher education officials and legislators want students to receive the same amount each year they are in college. Lottery sales are not expected to remain at current levels because the initial popularity of the games will wear off.

Another factor was that more students than expected applied for and were eligible for scholarships. That was especially true of students at four-year universities.

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