Encouraging Arkansans to pursue higher education is critical to the success of our future. That is why we are pleased to see efforts that have been taken to make sure students know what is available to them are paying off.
This week, a subcommittee for Arkansas Legislative Council which oversees the lottery received a report showing 30,883 applications were submitted this year for the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship. That is a 21% increase from the year before. This scholarship is funded by the statewide lottery.
In addition, the committee also heard from the Department of Higher Education and learned 4,859 Arkansans have applied for the new Arkansas Future Grant scholarship.
The Arkansas Future Grant was created in the most recent regular session. The purpose of this grant is to increase the education and skills of Arkansas’s workforce in an affordable manner. The grant applies to students enrolled in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) or regional high demand areas of study. The grant will cover tuition and fees for qualifying certificate and Associate degree programs at Arkansas’ public institutions for eligible students. The grant is available on a first come, first serve basis.
We hope the scholarship programs available not only allow more students to attend, but also help to lower student debt upon completion. The Institute for College Access and Success reported this year that 55 percent of college students and graduates in Arkansas have student debt which averages more than $25,000 per debtor.
While we celebrate more Arkansas students pursuing their education this fall, our work continues. We will be closely monitoring reports at the end of the school year to see how many students are completing the degree they are working to attain. Adjustments have been made to the Academic Challenge scholarship over the years to help incentivize continuation.
Arkansas ranks in the top 20 states in the nation for the percentage of high school grads going on to college. However, we lag behind when it comes to degree completion.
As colleges and universities across the state begin classes this week, we want to wish all of our students, faculty and staff the very best for a successful semester.