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Academic Competitiveness and National SMART Grants - Information for Students and Parents

The Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) and National SMART Grant Programs were created in the Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2006, which became effective July 1, 2006. The program awards need-based Academic Competitiveness Grants to first- and second-year undergraduates who completed a rigorous high school curriculum, and National SMART Grants to third- and fourth-year undergraduates majoring in certain technical fields or foreign languages deemed vital to national security.

Participation in a rigorous secondary school program of study may qualify a postsecondary student to receive an ACG, if otherwise eligible. All students, including private school students, home-schooled students, students enrolled in Department of Defense Overseas Schools, and Bureau of Indian Affairs students may qualify for an ACG under the rigorous secondary school program of study options, if the student is otherwise eligible.

In addition to those programs reported to the Secretary as rigorous by the designated official, the following secondary school programs of study are rigorous:

  1. Advanced or honors secondary school programs established by states and in existence for the 2004-2005 school year or later school years.

  2. Any secondary school program in which a student successfully completes at a minimum the following courses:

    • Four years of English.
    • Three years of mathematics, including algebra I and a higher- level class such as algebra II, geometry, or data analysis and statistics.
    • Three years of science, including one year each of at least two of the following courses: biology, chemistry, and physics.
    • Three years of social studies.
    • One year of a language other than English.

  3. A secondary school program identified by a state-level partnership that is recognized by the State Scholars Initiative of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), Boulder, Colorado.

  4. Any secondary school program for a student who completes at least two courses from an International Baccalaureate Diploma Program sponsored by the International Baccalaureate Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, and receives a score of "4"' or higher on the examinations for at least two of those courses.

  5. Any secondary school program for a student who completes at least two Advanced Placement courses and receives a score of "3"' or higher on the College Board's Advanced Placement Program Exams for at least two of those courses.

  6. Rigorous secondary school programs of study established by a state education agency or, if legally authorized by the state to establish a separate secondary school program of study, a local education agency, where such programs were recognized by the Secretary as rigorous after January 1, 2005, but before July 1, 2009.

Prior to the 2009-10 award year, the Secretary recognized at least one rigorous secondary school program of study for each state annually.

Rigorous secondary school programs of study by year of high school graduation as recognized by the Secretary of Education:

Effective July 1, 2009, the Secretary no longer recognizes new rigorous secondary school programs of study. Starting with the 2009-2010 award year, designated officials report to the Secretary rigorous secondary school programs of study, including such programs of study in home schools and private schools, that prepare students for college.

Overview of Academic Competitiveness and National SMART Grants:

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Last Modified: 03/22/2010