State Senator Alan Clark (R-Lonsdale) filed a bill today to give additional scholarship support to college juniors and seniors who agree to teach for five consecutive years in a "high needs subject area." Clark is on the eight member Senate Education Committee.
The Republican from Lonsdale, which sits between Benton and Hot Springs off Highway 70, wants to "enhance" the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship. SB 26 would give college juniors and seniors $5,000 a year (a maximum of $10,000 would be awarded to a student over their time on campus). In order to qualify students would need to maintain a 3.25 GPA; enroll in a teacher education program; and enter a written agreement with the Department of Higher Education to teach for a minimum of five consecutive years in a "high needs subject area." Those subjects would be determined by the department.
Failing to follow through could come in several forms such as failing to seek a teacher's license within a year of graduation, failing to successfully obtain a teacher's license within a year, choosing to teach in a subject area that is not high needs. Penalties include repaying the scholarship award either on a pro rata basis or in its entirety with interest rates and payment schedules determined by the Department of Higher Education.
The bill instructs the department to craft a process for awarding enhanced scholarships on a competitive basis if there are more qualified applicants than teaching spots open or "if funds are not available to award enhanced scholarships."
The Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship currently awards $1,000 in the first year of college enrollment, $4,000 in year 2-3 and $5,000 during year four to any qualifying student. It is not tied to the teaching profession.
The legislative session begins in January.