Southern Bancorp Inc., the Ross Foundation and Murphy Oil Corp. are investing millions on Promise Scholarships which offer to pay college tuition and fees for most Arkansas high school graduates from specific geographic regions. Arkansas is joining a number of other states which have enacted legislation for a promise program, including New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Montana, Minnesota, Kentucky, and Nevada.
Promise Scholarships have historically attracted students, according to school officials, and "bring a more educated workforce to their regions, a plus for existing businesses and for economic development efforts to bring in new businesses." The El Dorado and Arkadelphia college scholarship programs have also inspired the Great River Promise scholarships offered by Arkansas Northeastern College in Blytheville and at the Helena-West Helena and DeWitt campuses of Phillips Community College.
To qualify for the Great River Promise Scholarships, students must have 95 percent high school punctuality and attendance record and have no alcohol-related or drug-related convictions. The Arkansas Northeastern College Great River Promise Scholarships are available to students who have graduated from high schools in Mississippi County or Buffalo Island Central High School in Craighead County. High school graduates in Phillips and Arkansas counties who are enrolling at either of the Phillips Community College campuses are qualified for Great River Promise Scholarships.
The El Dorado Promise Scholarships are available to El Dorado High School graduates who have been enrolled in that school district since at least ninth grade and are planning to attend an accredited U.S. institution of higher education. The maximum award amount per student is set by the highest annual resident tuition at a public institution in Arkansas, which is $9,439 for 2018-2019. Students are able to renew the scholarship for five consecutive years if they maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA and complete 12 credit hours per semester.
To be eligible for the Arkadelphia Promise Scholarship, students must also qualify for the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship, the lottery scholarship. Students must also be Arkadelphia High School graduates and plan to attend an accredited U.S. institution. Beginning this year, the scholarship will be up to $5,000 a semester for college freshman; sophomores, juniors, and seniors will receive up to $3,000 per semester and can be renewed so long as they maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA and complete 27 credit hours their first year and 30 credit hours each year after that.
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