• Report

Academic competitiveness and national SMART grant programs: Lessons learned, 2006-07 through 2009-10


Choy, S., Lee, J., & Topper, A. (2012). Academic competitiveness and national SMART grant programs: Lessons learned, 2006-07 through 2009-10. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development.


Two new grant programs for low-income undergraduates—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 were implemented in 2006–07. The ACG was intended to increase students’ chances of success in college by encouraging them to take challenging courses in high school and enroll in college full-time. The National SMART Grant was designed to encourage students to major in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields or in selected foreign languages deemed critical to the national interest. First-year ACG recipients could get up to $750, and second-year recipients, up to $1,300. National SMART Grants were worth up to $4,000. Both programs ended at the end of the 2010–11 award year.

To receive either grant, a student had to be a U.S. citizen, enroll full-time, and qualify for a Federal Pell Grant. An ACG recipient also had to graduate from high school after Jan. 1, 2006, if a first-year student, or Jan. 1, 2005, if a second-year student; complete a rigorous high school program; enroll in a degree program; and have a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 at the end of the first year of college to receive an ACG as a second-year student. National SMART Grant recipients had to major in an eligible field and maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 in course work required for their major.

Starting in 2009–10, eligibility for both grants was expanded to include part-time students and Pell Grant–eligible noncitizens. In addition, students in certificate programs lasting a year or longer at a degree-granting institution could get an ACG, and students in the fifth year of an eligible five-year program could receive a National SMART Grant.