LITTLE ROCK - The deadline for applying for Academic Challenge Scholarships is June 1, and the applications are available online at the website of the state Higher Education Department.
That address is: www.adhe.edu
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. They can also qualify if they score 19 or higher on the ACT standardized test. High school graduates must complete the Smart Core curriculum to qualify for an Academic Challenge Scholarship.
Qualifying freshmen who begin college in the fall will receive $2,000, and the amount will gradually increase for each year they remain in school. 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.
Scholarship amounts used to be greater, but were lowered because lottery revenue has gone down. Students who qualified in previous years for $4,500 a year scholarships 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.
Veterans' Tax Relief
Legislative committees have voted to pursue the possibility of providing tax relief for veterans and veterans' organizations during the 2015 regular session. The committees voted to request a financial impact report from state revenue officials, which is a necessary step whenever tax reduction bills are introduced.
One proposal would be to exempt federal military retirement benefits from the state income tax. Another would be to allow veterans who are permanently and completely disabled to be exempted from paying sales taxes. A third proposal would exempt veterans service organizations from having to pay local property taxes.
Tobacco Firm Fined
A Pulaski County judge ordered a Canadian tobacco company to pay the state $29.5 million because it failed to set aside money in an escrow account in lieu of participating in the 1998 tobacco settlement. The company sold Seneca cigarettes in Arkansas and has been in litigation with the state for the past nine years.
In addition to the fine, the company must put more than $9.8 million into an escrow account, which the state would receive if it were to win a legal judgment against the cigarette manufacturer.