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Academic Competitiveness Grant

Along with the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (SMART), the Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005 also created the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG). If you’re also a Federal Pell Grant recipient, contact your college’s financial aid office for more information about this award if you’ve also been targeting merit-based awards, as this grant rewards academic achievement.

What is an ACG Grant?

The award was first disbursed for the 2006-2007 school year for first-year college students who graduated from high school after January 1, 2006, and for second-year college students who graduated from high school after January 1, 2005. As awards are only given to students who also qualify for Pell Grants, the program is both need- and merit-based. You’ll need to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to determine whether you’re eligible for the TEACH Grant and how much funding you could be eligible to receive. (You should always fill that application out anyway as it’s your ticket to free money from all government programs.)

Who may be eligible for ACG Grants?

To be eligible for the grant, you must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen, have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and have completed a "rigorous secondary school program of study.” Such programs include Honors, IB or AP courses, and rigorous secondary school programs are listed annually by the Secretary of Education. Those rigorous secondary school programs could also include four years of English, three years of science, and one year of foreign language. (Meaning you need to complete all of those to be eligible, not just one.) Those who are found to be eligible during their sophomore year of college must also maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.

How much money can I get?

Students can get up to $750 for the first year of undergraduate study and up to $1,300 for the second year of undergraduate study. The amount of the grant, when combined with a Pell Grant, may not exceed the student's cost of attendance. As with all federal aid, that amount is subject to change, and students may receive less than the maximum depending on the amount of students found eligible for the grant each year.

Do I need to know anything else?

As of July 1, 2009, the Secretary of Education will not be adding new programs to the list of those programs considered “rigorous.” That list is still subject to change, however, if a program official lobbies for a particular program’s inclusion on that list.

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