On October 26, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced that over $233 million in Academic Competitiveness (AC) grants were awarded to nearly 300,000 students nationwide and that an additional $195 million in National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) grants were awarded to nearly 61,000 students.
“Math, science and critical foreign language skills are the new currencies in our global economy, and we must continue to work hard to inform students about the money available for them if they take classes in these fields,” Spellings said. “These grant programs will not only enable more students to attend college but also better prepare our students for a globally competitive workforce.”
This year was the first year for both programs, which were signed into law on Feb. 8, 2006, through the Deficit Reduction Act. AC grants provide additional aid to first- and second-year college students who complete a rigorous high school curriculum, are enrolled full-time in college, and who maintain a 3.0 GPA. National SMART Grants are for third- and fourth-year Pell grant-eligible college students who have maintained a 3.0 GPA, who major in math, science, or critical foreign languages, and who are enrolled full-time.
Students who are selected to receive AC or SMART grants get that money on top of what they receive in Pell grants. AC grant recipients get $750 in their first year of college and up to $1,300 in their second year. SMART grant students can receive up to $4,000 during each year.
According to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Education, the most AC grant recipients were enrolled at Pennsylvania State University (4,128), the University of California-Davis (1,926), the University of Texas-Austin (1,718), the University of California-Los Angeles (1,686), and the Ohio State University (1,620). For SMART grants, Brigham Young University (1,584), the University of Phoenix (1,326), the University of California-San Diego (921), DeVry University (789), and Pennsylvania State University (715) had the most recipients.
The Department of Education has set a goal to double the number of students receiving AC and SMART grants by 2010-11. To reach this goal, the report says that high schools need to do a better job in graduating more students on time and ready for college and work. It also challenges high school and postsecondary personnel, state policymakers, and access advocates to know their state’s approved programs of rigorous study and to better advocate for low-income students’ access to rigorous, college preparatory classes. According to the report, only 4 percent of low-income high school students complete rigorous college preparatory courses, and only 25 percent of first-time, full-time Pell recipients nationally received an AC Grant.
To help school personnel better steer students into one of the programs, the report includes a list of descriptions of common issues faced during the first year of implementation and how some innovative states and institutions addressed them.
The complete report is available at http://www.ed.gov/programs/smart/results2007/national.pdf.