The deadline for applying for Academic Challenge Scholarships is June 1. The applications are available online at the state Department of Higher Education web site.

High school graduates who intend to go to an Arkansas college or university are eligible if their grade point average is 2.5 on a scale of 4.0, with an “A” being a 4.0 and a “B” being a 3.0.  Graduates must have completed the Smart Core curriculum, which is a modern and rigorous college preparatory set of courses.

Also, their composite score on the ACT standardized test must be 19 or above, or else they must score at the proficient level on all end or course assessments mandated by the state Education Department.

Qualifying freshmen who begin college in the fall will receive $2,000.  To maintain their eligibility they must complete 27 hours their freshman year and 30 hours each subsequent year. If they are required to complete a remedial course, they must do so within the first 30 hours of course work.  They also have to maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.5 in college.

Sophomores who maintain their eligibility will get $3,000 if they attend a four-year university.  As juniors they will get $4,000 and as seniors they will get $5,000.

Scholarship recipients who attend a two-year college will get $2,000 the first year and $2,000 again the second year.

Funding for the Academic Challenge Scholarships comes mostly from the state lottery.

The legislature adjusted the scholarship amounts this year to preserve the long-term financial integrity of the program.  Students will be assured of how much they will receive over the duration of their college career.

Students who qualified for $4,500 this school year and last school year will continue to receive that amount as long as they remain eligible.  Students who in 2010-2011 qualified for $5,000 will continue to receive that amount.  Students at two-year colleges who in the previous three years qualified for scholarships of $2,250 will continue to receive that amount.

A student can ask to have their scholarship placed on hold if they take a break from their studies, but not for longer than two semesters.

According to officials at the Higher Education Department, this year about 33,000 students in Arkansas received about $133 million in scholarships.  Of those, about 23,000 were students at four-year universities.

The number of recipients is expected to increase in the fall, to about 36,000 students.  They will receive about $113 million.

In 2011 the lottery generated $94.2 million for scholarships and in 2012 it generated $97.5 million.

Last year the average increase in tuition and fees at 10 publicly supported universities in Arkansas was 4.1 percent, and the average annual increase over the past five years has been 5.3 percent. At the 22 two-year colleges, the average increase was 5 percent last year, and for the past five years the average has been 6.4 percent a year.

Last fall, enrollment in Arkansas colleges and universities, including private institutions, was about 175,000 students.

State Sen. Eddie Cheatham