The Department of Higher Education unveiled Monday a free smart phone application - the first of its kind with customer service help available via text - for Arkansans to apply for state financial aid and check the status of their awards. It was developed by the Information Network of Arkansas, the agency that develops websites and online applications for other state agencies.
"This smart phone application will allow students to complete the YOUniversal financial aid scholarship application from their iPhone, Android, or other device with a browser," said Shane Broadway, interim director for ADHE, "as easily as they would on our website. They'll also be able to check their status and accept awards from their handheld."
Beginning this year the deadline for application for all of the state's 21 programs will be June 1 for both the fall and spring semesters for the upcoming academic year.
Additionally, changes to the Academic Challenge Scholarship - the state's largest financial aid program - will be few but important to know, Broadway continued.
Award amounts for the Academic Challenge Scholarship will be slightly lower for new recipients - $4,500 for those enrolled at four-year institutions and $2,250 for those attending two-year colleges, as determined by the 88th General Assembly. Students who received the awards last year will continue to receive $5,000 and $2,500 respectively, as long as their continuing eligibility requirements are met.
Legislation provides for the amounts to be set each year after review by the General Assembly, which takes into account current awards and projections of net revenue from the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship.
Last year a total of 31,031 Arkansas Academic Challenge scholarships were awarded, with the largest number going to traditional students who graduated in the previous school year.
Each student who graduates from an Arkansas high school in 2011 and completes the eligibility qualifications is guaranteed to receive Academic Challenge Scholarships funds under the current legislation. The remaining dollars are then awarded based on a prioritization process that takes into account students nearest to graduation, GPA and those in critical needs areas, such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Those who received the Academic Challenge Scholarship during the 2010-2011 academic year will not have to reapply. Students who applied previously but were not awarded must reapply by June 1. Students must also log in to their account to make any changes to their status, including transferring to another institution.
"We require all applications for financial aid for the upcoming academic year be completed by June 1," said Phil Axelroth, interim financial aid director, "and all supporting materials such as transcripts and other required documentation be received by our offices no later than June 15. Traditional students who have completed their application will be notified as early as the first week of May. Some students may be notified later in the process."
The homepage of the agency's website - www.adhe.edu - should provide answers to most questions and easy access to information, officials said.
The ADHE is responsible for carrying out the policy directives of the AHECB, approving and reviewing college and university academic programs and developing funding recommendations for the state's 11 public universities and 22 public two-year colleges as well as several other post-secondary entities.
In addition, the agency is responsible for distributing approximately $170 million annually from state revenues and lottery funds intended to ease the financial burden of students seeking an education beyond high school. For more information, visit www.adhe.edu.