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Gov. Timothy M. Kaine urged qualified, Pell Grant-eligible Virginia students to apply for new federal grants worth between $750 and $4,000. The new Academic Competitiveness (AC) grants and National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) grants provide further incentive for students to take more challenging courses in high school, and to pursue college majors in high demand areas such as science, math, technology, engineering and critical foreign languages.

"Rules that took effect July 1st require students to visit the federal student aid website to determine their eligibility and to apply for this financial aid," Kaine said. "I urge Virginia students to check their eligibility as soon as possible by visiting www.federalstudentaid.ed.gov. These grants can help inspire academic excellence, and make careers in science and math more attractive to more of our young people."

The AC grants provide college students who completed a rigorous course of study in high school with additional funds of up to $750 during their freshman year and up to $1,300 during their sophomore year, in addition to Pell Grant funds students are already receiving. College juniors and seniors who are eligible for SMART grants automatically will receive up to $4,000 in additional aid next year.

To receive an AC Grant, rising college freshmen and sophomores must be Pell Grant-eligible, and have met or exceeded the requirements for Virginia's Standard Diploma or an Advanced Studies Diploma. To receive a SMART Grant, third- and fourth-year Pell Grant-eligible students must meet the requirements, major in designated science, technology, math or critical foreign languages and maintain a 3.0 GPA.

"Math, science, and critical foreign language skills are the new currency in our global economy. To ensure our nation's economic competitiveness, we must first expect high academic performance from our students," said U.S. Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. "The new Academic Competitiveness Grants and SMART Grants encourage students to take the courses and complete the degrees to help them compete."

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that approximately 500,000 students nationwide will qualify to receive AC or SMART grants, which will provide $790 million in funding this fall and $4.5 billion over the next five years.

Students can receive more eligibility and application information for both of these grant programs online at http://www.federalstudentaid.ed.gov or by calling 1- 800- 4FEDAID (or 1-800-433-3243).

This article was posted on: July 5, 2006

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