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Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship changes rules for 2014

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Arkansas high school students who wish to apply for the Arkansas Academic Challenge will face tougher qualifications come 2014. The scholarship, which gets its funding from the Arkansas Lottery, will require all graduating high school seniors to complete the Smart Core curriculum starting in 2014. That means this year’s seniors need to complete Smart Core in order to qualify. Whether this pertains to homeschooled students or not is unclear. The state of Arkansas does not issue diplomas to homeschooled students—therefore, homeschoolers cannot have a Smart Core diploma.

Currently, students who have a 2.5 GPA and score a 19 or above on the ACT or equivalent score on the SAT or COMPASS tests qualify for the scholarship. In 2013, the financially strapped Lottery Commission reduced the amount of awards to freshman entering a four-year college by half. Now, the Smart Core requirement is expected to reduce scholarship payouts to approximately 2,000 high school students.

The change is not new. When the scholarship was implemented in 2009, it was decided that by 2014 all recipients will be required to complete the Smart Core curriculum. But homeschool students are not required to follow what is taught in public schools. Smart Core is a public school curriculum; it is not mandated for private schools and homeschools. So where does that leave homeschoolers?

ADHE states that it has notified all high school guidance departments in the state about the upcoming change. However, their website has not been updated since August 2012. Nothing states whether homeschools are subject to this new rule or not.

I have requested a response from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) and have not received a response. As of school year ending in May 2013, homeschoolers were eligible to receive an Academic Challenge Scholarship. My son was one of those recipients. It is not a tremendous amount of money--$2,000 per year—but, it helps pay for tuition and books.

In case homeschoolers want to know what is required for 2014, a list of Smart Core courses and requirements is available from ADHE. Once clarification is received from ADHE, I will post an update to this article.

Lynda Altman has homeschooled her 4 children over the last 15 years and has 2 children in homeschool. She believes that homeschooling is a parent’s G-d given right. Lynda writes a blog called Homeschooling When Mom has Cancer. Get notices when this page is updated by clicking on the subscribe link, by email, or contact Lynda @fusgeyer on Twitter.

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