Academic competitiveness and national SMART grant programs: First-year lessons learned
The Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005 created two new grant programs for undergraduates: the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) program and the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (National SMART) Grant program. The ACG program is intended to encourage students to take challenging courses in high school and thus increase their likelihood of success in college. The National SMART Grant program is intended to encourage students to pursue college majors considered in high demand in the global economy (mathematics, science, engineering, technology, and languages deemed critical to the national interest).
To be eligible for an ACG or National SMART Grant, a student had to qualify for a Federal Pell Grant, enroll full-time in a degree program at a two- or four-year institution of higher education, and be a U.S. citizen. First-year students who met these conditions, graduated from high school after Jan. 1, 2006, and completed a rigorous high school program (as defined by the U.S. Department of Education) could receive an ACG up to $750 (depending on their financial need). 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 3.0 at the end of their first year of college. National SMART Grants worth up to $4,000 are available to third- and fourth-year students who are majoring in mathematics, science (physical, life, or computer), engineering, technology, or certain foreign languages considered critical to the national interest and who maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0.