by David Ramsey
Through the new ArFuture Grant, we are ensuring that all Arkansans have access to affordable higher education. This plan will not only increase access to post-secondary education by removing the financial hurdles that keep many from enrolling, but it will also incentivize our students to better themselves by providing an opportunity to climb the economic ladder, while serving their communities.Full press release after the jump:
ArFuture will send a clear message to prospective employers that the state is committed to building the 21st century workforce that will attract industry and allow the Arkansas economy to thrive.
Gov. Hutchinson Introduces New ArFuture Grant
Pays Full Cost of Tuition for Community and Technical College
LITTLE ROCK – Gov. Asa Hutchinson today announced the creation of the “Arkansas Future Grant” (ArFuture) for traditional, home school and non-traditional students in Arkansas. This state funded grant would be available on a first come, first serve basis and would provide two years of tuition and fees at an Arkansas community or technical college to any student who enrolls in a high demand field of study, such as computer science or welding.
ArFuture grants will not require new general revenues. The price tag will be covered by repurposing $8.2 million in general revenue funds from the state’s WIG and GO! grants. (The GO! grant program currently has a 77% non-completion rate.) In addition, key reforms will be implemented to address important factors such as student accountability.
For example, under the ArFuture grant, all recipients are required to meet monthly with a program mentor. This measure will increase the likelihood of the student success. Additionally, upon graduation, the student must work full-time in Arkansas for a minimum of three years. If a student does not complete his or her commitment, the grant will be converted to a loan for repayment to the State of Arkansas.
Governor Hutchinson issued the following statement:
"Through the new ArFuture Grant, we are ensuring that all Arkansans have access to affordable higher education. This plan will not only increase access to post-secondary education by removing the financial hurdles that keep many from enrolling, but it will also incentivize our students to better themselves by providing an opportunity to climb the economic ladder, while serving their communities.”
“ArFuture will send a clear message to prospective employers that the state is committed to building the 21st century workforce that will attract industry and allow the Arkansas economy to thrive.”
ArFuture Grant Information:
To be eligible for the ArFuture Grant, students must be a high school graduate with established residency, including those students that were home schooled or received their GED. This does not include high school students that are taking concurrent credit courses. Prospective students must also apply for a Federal Pell Grant. There is no grade point average prerequisite to receive the grant. Recipients of the grant may enroll as full-time or part-time students at any in-state community college. They must also complete 8 hours of community service per semester. The ArFuture grant is stackable with the Arkansas Lottery and other state scholarships. If passed, the ArFuture grant will be available for the 2017-2018 school year.
2017 Education Initiatives:
Governor Hutchinson’s ArFuture grant program is a component of his comprehensive education plan for the upcoming 2017 Legislative Session, which focuses on meeting the needs of Arkansas’s rapidly changing workforce by making post-secondary education more affordable, accessible, and attainable. Other components of the Governor’s education initiatives are as follows:
Higher Education Productivity Funding Formula:
The Higher Education Productivity Funding Model places the priority on accountability, student success and program completion as opposed to the previous formula, which places priority on student enrollment. Additionally, the Governor demonstrated his support for the new funding method in October by announcing an additional $10 million increase to higher education funding conditioned on the reform’s passage. If the new funding model is adopted, Arkansas will become only the fifth state to make significant progress toward funding higher education based on similar productivity models – joining Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, and Oregon.
You can read more on the Governor’s proposed Higher Education Productivity Funding Formula HERE.
Additional $3 million in Pre-K funding:
Governor Hutchinson is committing an additional $3 million a year to improve the quality of pre-kindergarten programs in the Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) program. Governor Hutchinson is recommending new grant programs to improve and reward teacher quality and encourage and enhance innovation.
Currently, Arkansas ranks 12th nationally in the percent of 4 year-olds enrolled in state-funded Pre-K, 3rd in the percent of 3 year-olds enrolled in state-funded Pre-K, and 22nd in the amount of per pupil funding. Additionally, Arkansas’ Pre-K program meets 9 out of the 10 benchmarks measuring Quality by the National Institute for Early Education Research (National Institute for Early Education Research).
Amending the Teacher Opportunity Program (TOP):
This proposal would amend the current Teacher Opportunity Program (TOP) that currently provides scholarships for teachers that are seeking further degrees. Under this proposed change, teachers that are pursuing degrees and/or certifications in Computer Science or STEM fields, Literacy, Pre-Kindergarten or Special Education would be given priority for these scholarships over teachers pursuing degrees and/or certifications in other areas.