State Scholarship Changes Could Cost Students

Students betting on state scholarships to cover their college costs might be facing an unexpected surprise in a number of states.

At a panel last week in Arkansas, legislators suggested changing how the state's Academic Challenge Scholarships are awarded, while in Tennessee, a discrepancy in how the state and local school districts calculate grades means that some graduating seniors unexpectedly didn't qualify for the state's HOPE Scholarship this year.

In recent years a number of states, most notably Georgia, tightened eligibility requirements for state scholarships, typically funded through lottery revenue, to account for increased student demand and flat or declining revenues.

The Arkansas plan would be somewhat different, in that it would provide gradually increasing amounts to students at four-year public colleges as they move toward graduation. Legislators predict a $100 million deficit in scholarship funds from 2013 through 2017.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, didn't rule out supporting the change, proposed by Republican state Senator Johnny Key.

“I'm not sure that's the best way to do it,” Beebe told the Arkansas News this week, “but I'm keeping an open mind to listen to what all the evidence is first.”

But former Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, who pushed for the lottery which was approved by voters in 2008, slammed the measure.

"This is in no way what was described to Arkansas voters," he told the Associated Press.

In Tennessee, students discovered that how their districts weight grades, such as honors or advanced placement courses, could affect their ability to qualify for the state's HOPE Scholarships, which rely on the state's uniform grading policy.

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