Recent Press Releases

Washington, DC —  Senator John Thune announced today that the United States Department of Education has established the state-by-state requirements for the new Academic Competitiveness Grants and the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grants. Beginning July 1, qualified Pell Grant-eligible students can start applying for these new grants that provide $790 million in funding for the 2006-07 academic year and $4.5 billion over the next five years. These grants provide additional incentives for students to take more challenging courses in high school and pursue majors that are in high demand in the global economy, such as math, science, technology, engineering, and critical foreign languages.

"Students across South Dakota are spending their summers working, studying, and planning for the upcoming academic year, and this funding could help many of them with those plans," said Thune. "These grants reward hard-working students who need financial assistance the most, and I am hopeful that students and parents will take advantage of this opportunity. These programs will also ensure that graduates are taking rigorous coursework that will prepare them for the changing world they will face."

The Academic Competitiveness Grants are available to rising college freshmen and sophomores who are Pell Grant-eligible and have completed a program of rigorous high school course work. These grants provide additional funds of up to $750 for first-year college students and up to an additional $1,300 for second-year students who complete rigorous high school course work, are enrolled full-time and maintain a 3.0 GPA in college.

SMART Grants are available to third- and fourth-year Pell Grant-eligible students who meet the requirements, major in designated science, technology, math, or critical foreign languages and maintain a 3.0 GPA. These students will automatically receive up to an additional $4,000 during the 2006-07 school year.

Students who have never applied for federal student aid should go on-line to or call 1-800-433-3243 for information on eligibility and application information for these and other federal student aid programs. Students may also use this website to find out specific information about the new grant programs. Students who have previously applied for federal student aid and who may be eligible for the Academic Competitiveness Grant will receive a notification from the Federal Student Aid office, either by email or regular mail, with application instructions. Notifications of awards will begin July 1.