LITTLE ROCK - Governor Hutchinson’s weekly radio address can be found in MP3 format and downloaded HERE.

It is well known that economic growth for our state is one of my top priorities.

Another of my priorities is a high-quality education system that will increase our workforce with more graduates who can program computers, balance budgets, create new products and in so many other ways improve the opportunities in Arkansas.

With that goal, one of my priorities during the just concluded 91st General Session was legislation to increase the number of Arkansans who further their education beyond high school. The result of that is the Arkansas Future scholarship program, which the Arkansas Department of Higher Education calls ArFuture for short.

We are accepting applications, and the deadline for the 2017-2018 school year has been extended to July 1.

Any prospective college student who has graduated from an Arkansas high school, Arkansas homeschool, or GED program is eligible to apply. And anyone with a high school diploma who has lived in Arkansas for the past three years can apply.

The only requirement is that you must enroll in a high-demand or STEM program and cannot already have a bachelor’s degree. You must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and apply through the Department of Higher Education’s online YOUniversal scholarship portal.

Through the ArFuture Grant, we are ensuring that all Arkansans have access to affordable higher education by a grant that pays all tuition and mandatory fees through a two-year college program or technical school.

Our other scholarship program, of course, is the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship, which provides approximately 30,000 scholarships each year to in-state residents.

This is a scholarship that is funded by the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery. The deadline to apply for that scholarship is June 15. Scholarships are available for four-year schools, two-year programs and approved nursing schools. The amount of the scholarship increases for students who remain in school. We reward students for succeeding in higher education – those who seek a four-year undergraduate degree in biology and those who seek two-year associate degree in welding.

The two important deadlines to remember are June 15 for the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship and July 1 for ArFuture. I encourage you to take advantage of the educational opportunities your state offers and join forces to make Arkansas better than ever.