Congress created the Academic Competitiveness Grant program in 2005 to encourage more students from low income families to take more challenging high school classes. It is part of the Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005, which make $790 million in financial aid funding available for the 2006-2007 academic year and $4.5 billion over the next five years. The first awards will be distributed this fall.
"This is yet another reason to increase the rigor in our schools,” said state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine. “Rigorous coursework will better prepare our students to succeed in college and the workforce of the future. We must expect high academic performance from our students if they are to be successful in the 21st century.”
The West Virginia Department of Education established eligibility requirements to meet the rigorous coursework definitions. Students must meet guidelines under one of seven options, including advanced placement courses and the PROMISE Scholarship requirements. Most options require three or four years of English, math, science and social studies. Some also require foreign language.
Students also must meet federal guidelines for federal Pell Grants, be United States citizens, and be full-time students enrolled in a two- or four-year degree-granting institution of higher education. A first-year student must not have been previously enrolled in a program of undergraduate education.
First-year students who meet the qualification may receive up to $750 and second-year students up to $1,300 in Academic Competitiveness Grants, if the student has successfully completed a rigorous secondary school program of study. Second-year recipients also must have attained at least a 3.0 grade point average in their first year of study.
First-year students also must have graduated from high school after Jan. 1, 2006, while second-year students must have graduated from high school after Jan. 1, 2005. The Academic Competitiveness Grant award is in addition to the student’s Pell Grant award.
"To ensure our nation's economic competitiveness, we must first expect high academic performance from our students,” U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said. “Rigorous coursework and an increased focus on math and science will prepare students to succeed in college and the workforce of the future."
For more information on eligibility requirements, contact the West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.