ADHE gets $2 million from rainy day fund for scholarships

LITTLE ROCK — The state Legislative Council on Friday approved a request from Gov. Mike Beebe to transfer up to $2 million from the state’s “rainy day fund” to the Governor’s Distinguished Scholarship program.

The Arkansas Department of Higher Education has asked for the money so it could take nearly 200 students off a waiting list for the scholarship.

This year, 531 students qualified for the scholarship, which pays up to $10,000 per year for a maximum of four years for tuition, mandatory fees and room and board at any approved Arkansas college or university. To be eligible, a student must have either a 32 composite score on the ACT or a score of 1410 SAT as well as a 3.50 academic grade point average.

The number of qualifying students is up from 412 students last year and from 408 two years ago. As of Friday, 300 students had accepted the scholarship and 193 were on a waiting list, with a small number of students having declined.

“We have a good problem,” ADHE Director Shane Broadway said. “It’s a record number of students who qualified for the Governor’s Distinguished — 119 students over last year.”

Broadway said higher education officials were concerned that students on the waiting list — some of the state’s highest-achieving students — would choose to go to college out of state.

“That was the whole premise behind the Governor’s Distinguished, to keep the best and brightest here in Arkansas. And if they go to college here, they’re more likely to stay here,” he said.

Broadway said letters would go out promptly to advise the students on the waiting list that they can receive the scholarships.