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Does Arkansas’ Free Community College Program Hold Promise?

By Ashley A. Smith, Reporter, Inside Higher Ed

Posted May 10, 2017 in Economic Development, News

Arkansas Future Grant

Originally posted on Inside Higher Ed

The free community college programs picking up steam across the country generally allow students to study whatever they want. But a new free community college initiative in Arkansas is looking to push students into the areas where the state has work force needs. To some free-college advocates, the initiative is more restrictive and limiting than other Promise programs, as the efforts are called.

Last week, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed an act creating the Arkansas Future Grant, or ArFuture. Hutchinson is Republican and both houses of the state’s Legislature are led by Republicans. The first grants would be available this fall.

The grant doesn’t require a minimum high school grade point average to qualify but goes to any traditional or nontraditional student — meaning recent high school graduates and adults — who enrolls in a science, technology, engineering or math field, or another high-demand field, at any of the state’s community or technical colleges. As a last-dollar grant, ArFuture would go to students only after they’ve received federal and state aid. Grant recipients must participate in a mentor or community service program, and after graduation, they must work full time in Arkansas for at least three years.

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