Studies continue to indicate that despite rising costs in higher education the benefits of a bachelor’s or an associate’s degree are still worth the investment of one’s time and money.

The Arkansas Academic Challenge program helps to offset the cost of that investment every year for thousands of students. If you are a high school senior and have not applied already, we encourage you to do so quickly. The deadline is June 1.

Funded in large part by the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, the Academic Challenge Scholarship is available to students regardless of their economic status, whether just graduating from high school, currently enrolled in college, enrolling in college for the first time, or re-enrolling after a period of time out of college.

Students graduating from high school must have achieved at least a 2.5 grade point average or scored at least a 19 on the ACT.

Non-traditional students, such as those who are returning to college later in life, are also eligible to apply. If you have more than 12 college hours completed, you will need a 2.5 college grade point average to qualify. The deadline is the same for both high school and non-traditional students.

The amount of the scholarship is for $2,000 for incoming freshman attending a 4 year university. The scholarship increases by a $1,000 every year after.

Students attending a 2 year college are eligible for a $2,000 per year scholarship.

Due to declining lottery revenue, the 90th General Assembly passed legislation which will change the qualifications and award amounts for the following academic year. This legislation will not impact students applying for this fall or those returning this year.

Students who have not applied for the scholarship before, should fill out the YOUniversal Scholarship Application by June 1 and provide any supporting materials, such as transcripts and ACT scores. The deadlines apply to both the fall and spring semesters.

Arkansas Department of Higher Education also offers a free smart phone application that students can use to apply or to check their award status.

To fill out the form, you can visit the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) website, at www.adhe.edu .