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More than 2,000 students using merit scholarships

Posted: September 29, 2013 - 12:11am

JUNEAU — About 32 percent of Alaska’s 2013 public high school graduates were eligible for state-sponsored merit scholarships, preliminary figures suggest.

Of the 2,475 graduates eligible for Alaska Performance scholarships, about 830 are using them this fall, according to preliminary data from the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education.

The commission expects additional students will receive scholarships later in the fall term, boosting that number. Nearly 870 students last year, about the same number as in 2011, used their scholarships in the fall following their respective high school graduation.

The scholarship program, championed by Gov. Sean Parnell as a way to transform Alaska’s education system, was created in 2010 but first funded in 2011.

Last year, about 27 percent of public school graduates were eligible for the scholarships, compared to about 29 percent in 2011.

Brian Rae, assistant director for research and analysis with the commission, said one of the ideas behind the program was to get students to push themselves harder in high school and better prepare them for college. He said it’s become more difficult to qualify for the scholarships, as the requirements have changed.

Nearly 2,040 students — which includes high school graduates from 2011, 2012 and 2013 — are using Alaska Performance scholarships this school year, totaling about $8 million, Parnell’s office reported this past week, citing the commission. Rae said that number also is likely to rise.

“I am extremely proud of each and every Alaska student who rose to the challenge of more rigorous coursework and earned these scholarships,” Parnell said in the release. “These scholarships will undoubtedly open the door of opportunity for future generations.”

Students must complete a set curriculum, graduate with at least a 2.5 grade point average and meet scoring thresholds on tests like the SAT to qualify for scholarships.

Award levels range from $2,378 to $4,755 a year that can go toward college or career and technical educations in Alaska.

Qualified students have six years to use up to four years of state aid.

Parnell’s office said more than 2,100 students also have been awarded AlaskAdvantage Education grants, totaling $4 million. Under that program, grants of up to $3,000 a year are awarded to students, based on financial need.

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