I’m often asked whether I am enjoying my time off now that the regular legislative session has concluded. Thanks to a very active lifestyle that included 30 years of Army physical training, my knee wore out a bit earlier than I had hoped. I now join the many of you that wear the battle scar that comes with a knee replacement, and I will spend the next several weeks and months working towards rehabilitation.

That will also give me time to read about the many graduates we are celebrating in our communities, and it makes this week’s information about the lottery scholarship opportunities for those pursuing higher education.

Mark July 1 on your calendar. It is the deadline to apply for the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship, more commonly known as the Lottery Scholarship, which has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in proceeds to help in the pursuit of higher education.

The Academic Challenge Scholarship is largely funded by the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery and provides tuition assistance to students at every state university and two-year college – both public and private. Applicants can be recent high school graduates, students already enrolled in school or non-traditional students at any stage in life. Additionally, the scholarship can be combined with other financial aid programs, such as the ARFuture Grant.

I was especially happy to sponsor legislation this session that expanded the science, technology, engineering and mathematics studies that can be applied to the ARFuture Grant. That and the Lottery Scholarship are the two most familiar to Arkansas students and their families.

This fall marks the 10-year anniversary of the Lottery. In that time, 542,307 in-state scholarships worth more than $965 million have been awarded to students seeking both four-year and two-year degrees.

Funds are awarded for the Academic Challenge Scholarship based on a system that incentivizes student success. Individuals enrolled in four-year institutions can receive $1,000 for the first year. Those who continue in school and meet eligibility criteria are rewarded with $4,000 for both sophomore and junior years and $5,000 for senior year. At two-year institutions, students receive $1,000 for the first year and $3,000 for the second.

To be eligible for an Academic Challenge Scholarship, traditional students must have a minimum ACT score of 19 and be in pursuit of a baccalaureate degree, associate degree, qualified certificate or nursing school diploma. Non-traditional students need either a 19 on the ACT or a 2.5-grade point average (GPA) from the last education received. To maintain eligibility, students must keep a 2.5 GPA, take 30 hours each year and be an Arkansas resident for 12 months prior to enrollment.

Lottery proceeds also fund workforce-training opportunities through the Arkansas Workforce Challenge Scholarship. This program pays for tuition and fees up to $800 per eligible program for high-demand occupations in healthcare, information technology and industry. Examples include dental assistants, aircraft mechanics, and computer programmers. Students must apply at least 30 days prior to enrollment in an eligible program.

During the recent legislative session, a law was passed to allow excess lottery proceeds to fund concurrent credit scholarships for high school juniors and seniors seeking college credit. Act 465, the Arkansas Concurrent Challenge Scholarship, will be available in January 2020 and applications must be made through the student’s public high school.

Applications for lottery-funded scholarships can be found at the Arkansas Department of Higher Education’s website at scholarships.adhe.edu. There you can fill out the department’s YOUniversal application to determine eligibility for all of the state’s scholarship programs. Students can also download the YOUniversal financial aid app and apply directly from a smartphone.

I hope you can pass this information along to someone that might benefit from it. I also hope you will let me know how I can be of assistance to you. Between physical therapy and my recovery, I’m a bit slower in responding right now, but I look forward to being back to full speed soon.

Thank you for the privilege of serving as State Representative. I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at (870) 460-0773, by email at leanne.burch@arkansashouse.org, or on Facebook @BurchforAR.

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