Today, leaders from the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce and ForwARd Arkansas gathered in Independence County to celebrate their success in championing a new law, Act 456, the Arkansas Concurrent Challenge Scholarship. Co-sponsored by Sen. James Sturch (R-19), Act 456 will use excess Arkansas Lottery proceeds to fund scholarships that encourage high school students to obtain college credits and career training credentials.
“The passage of the concurrent credit scholarship was vitally important for students across our state to access the same opportunities,” said Sen. Sturch (R-19). “It will ultimately standardize what courses are taught, how they’re delivered and how much they cost.”
Act 456, which passed this legislative session, was inspired by a similar initiative “Independence Promise” created in Independence County, Arkansas and funded locally by generous donors and businesses last year. “Independence Promise” was created as part of the IMPACT Independence County strategic community plan. In the first semester of the program launch, more than 150 Independence County high school students participated, earning a collective 648 hours of college credit and achieving a 94 percent course completion rate.
“We are thrilled to see this initiative created here in Independence County expand statewide,” said Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Crystal Johnson. “We are grateful to Senator Sturch for his leadership in advancing Act 456 and for his support of students and families all over Arkansas.”
Community input from a series of ForwARd Together Conversations convened by Forward Arkansas locally and throughout the state last spring to inform the development of statewide policies to improve education outcomes for all Arkansas students also informed the development of “Independence Promise” and the idea of expanding the initiative statewide.
“These conversations, where citizens imagined ways to increase equitable access to educational opportunity and to ensure that all Arkansas students, including those who plan on pursuing a college degree, are “employable” or career-ready, were the inspiration for “Independence Promise’ and ultimately Act 456,” said ForwARd Arkansas Executive Director Susan Bonesteel Harriman. “The Arkansas Concurrent Challenge Scholarship will give high school juniors and seniors throughout the state an additional incentive to begin thinking about and planning for college or additional career training before they graduate.”
Under the scholarship, eligible high school students may be awarded $125 per course for up to two endorsed concurrent enrollment credit courses per semester at eligible two-year or four-year public and private, nonprofit colleges or universities.