Academic competitiveness and national SMART grant programs: 2006-07 and 2007-08
The Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005, signed into law in February 2006, created two new grant programs for low-income students—the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) for first- and second-year students and the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (National SMART) Grant for third- and fourth-year students. The ACG program is intended to encourage students to take challenging courses in high school and attend college full-time, thus increasing their likelihood of succeeding in college. The National SMART Grant program is intended to encourage students to pursue college majors considered to be in high demand in the global economy (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and languages deemed critical to the national interest.1 Congress provided $4.5 billion over five years for these programs, and the first grants were awarded in 2006–07. Unless reauthorized, both programs will end after the 2010–11 academic year.
Initially, to be eligible for either grant program, students had to qualify for a Federal Pell Grant,2 enroll full-time, and be a U.S. citizen. First-year students meeting these conditions were eligible for an ACG up to $750 (depending on their financial need) if they graduated from high school after Jan. 1, 2006, completed a rigorous high school program (as defined by the U.S. Department of Education), and enrolled in a degree program at a two- or four-year institution of higher education. Second-year students could receive up to $1,300 if they graduated from high school after Jan. 1, 2005, met all the other conditions for an ACG, and had a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.03 at the end of their first year of college. Third- and fourth-year students with eligible majors at four-year institutions could receive a National SMART Grant worth up to $4,000 if they started with and maintained a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0.