Two important deadlines are approaching for students seeking financial aid to attend a state-supported college or university.

June 15 is the deadline to apply for the popular Academic Challenge Scholarships, which are funded by the lottery and which help about 30,000 students every year. July 1 is the deadline for applying for an ARFuture grant, which will cover tuition and fees for students who major in science, technology, engineering and math.

The application process is simple. Search for the web page of the state Department of Higher Education by typing in “scholarships.adhe.edu” and clicking on the YOUniversal Scholarship Application.

To qualify for a lottery scholarship a student must score at least 19 on the ACT college entrance exam. Once in college they have to maintain a 2.5 grade point average.

With the passage of Act 597 of 2017 the legislature changed the law so that, for the first time, graduate students can receive the scholarships.

The scholarship awards are structured to provide a strong incentive for students to complete their freshman year and stay on course towards earning a degree. The lottery scholarship award is $1,000 for freshmen. Students at a two-year college receive $3,000 their second year. Students enrolled in a four-year university who maintain the 2.5 GPA will receive $4,000 in both their sophomore and junior years. As seniors they receive $5,000.

In the regular session earlier this year the governor proposed and the legislature approved Act 316 to create the ARFutures grant program.

The grants will pay for two years of tuition and fees for students pursuing certificates or associates’ degrees in fields of high demand, such as computer science, technology and welding.

Students who receive a grant must participate in a mentor program and a community service program. After their graduation they must work full-time in Arkansas for at least three years. If they leave the state, the grant is converted into a loan and must be repaid.

Higher education officials estimate that about 7,000 students will receive ARFuture grants. The grants are not for a specific amount because each institution has different fees and tuition charges. Higher education officials estimate that the average cost is about $3,600 a year.

Scholarship applicants must fill out a form for FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Volkswagen settlement

The state of Arkansas is due to receive more than $14.6 million in a legal settlement with the manufacturers of Volkswagen cars. Information about the settlement is on the web site of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

Volkswagen was sued for allegedly violating clean air laws by the state of California and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The agencies alleged that Volkswagen tampered with emission control devices in order to skirt clean air laws.

The alleged tampering occurred on about 500,000 cars and 80,000 diesel powered vehicles sold between 2009 and 2016.

Nationwide, Volkswagen will pay the states about $2.9 billion. States will use the money to fund air pollution reduction efforts. Specifically, the money will go toward improving air quality by reducing the amounts of nitrogen oxides (NOx), ozone, and fine particles in the atmosphere.

If you have any questions or comments about legislative issues, contact me at terry.rice@senate.ar.gov or call me at (479) 650-9712.