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Student Loans

Arkansas Student Loans, Scholarships, and Grants

Updated Nov 14, 2022   |   7 mins read

Arkansas is a beautiful state offering plenty of activities for residents and visitors. It’s also the home of the University of Arkansas Razorbacks, a Division I, nationally-known sports program. The state has four public four-year institutions, with more than 20 associate or junior colleges and a large number of private schools. Altogether, the higher education system in Arkansas boasts a large number of majors and available career fields for students looking to advance their education.

The state hopes to incentivize students to attend college in-state and eventually contribute to the state economy after graduation in their chosen field. Pursuant to that effort, Arkansas has a variety of programs to help students pay for school. Between the federal programs available and the options in-state, Arkansas students can attend close to home—and they can afford to do so.

If you’re an Arkansas resident or are attending college in Arkansas, take a look at a few of the ideas open to you.

On this page:

Getting Financial Aid for College

Most of the many avenues for financial aid available require the same core paperwork. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, is the first thing you should complete if you’re interested in financial aid. The FAFSA gives the federal government and your school a complete picture of your finances and indicates how much of a gap there is between what your chosen school will cost and what you can afford.

The amount you’ll need for school is based upon the school’s cost of attendance, which is a published figure that includes all of the expenses you can reasonably expect to pay while going to that school. Costs like tuition, books, room and board, transportation, and supplies are included. After you’ve completed a FAFSA, the government sends you a Student Aid Report, or SAR, that outlines how much the government thinks you should be able to contribute to that amount.

It’s expected that the primary funding for your education will come from you and your family. Whatever the difference is between that expected family contribution, or EFC, and the school’s published cost of attendance is considered your financial need.

Once the school receives their version of your SAR, they’ll fashion a financial aid package meant to cover the amount of financial need. Some families can’t meet the expected family contribution. In those cases, there’s a funding gap between the cost of attendance and their awarded financial aid. That’s where private student loans, scholarships, and grants can help, by making up the EFC for that student and family.

Student Loan Options for Students in Arkansas

Like most states, Arkansas doesn’t offer state-level student loans since the federal government took over much of the student loan industry. There are, however, a wide variety of student loans available through private lenders.

Centennial Bank (Sallie Mae)

Fixed APR

5.74% – 11.85%

Variable APR

4.62% – 11.47%

Loan Terms

5 – 15 years

In Arkansas, long-time student loan originator Sallie Mae has partnered with Centennial Bank to offer the Smart Option student loan. You can borrow up to 100% of your cost of attendance and have flexible repayment options. Interest rates start at 4.62% for variable and 5.74% for fixed-rate loans.

Arkansas Federal Credit Union

AFCU offers educational lines of credit for undergraduate and graduate students so that you can only borrow what you need, when you need it. You can borrow up to $75,000 with an interest rate starting at 6.0% APR, no origination or prepayment penalties, and flexible repayment options.

College Ave Student Loans

Fixed APR

5.29% – 12.78%

Variable APR

4.20% – 11.44%

Loan Terms

5, 8, 10, or 15 years

College Ave is a fairly new lender, but has highly flexible loan products and repayment terms, with interest rates starting at 4.07% APR for variable and 5.29% for fixed-rate loans. To be eligible, you need to be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident attending an eligible school for at least half-time, and if you qualify you can borrow up to 100 percent of your cost of attendance.

Arkansas College Scholarships

Scholarships are essentially “free money” that students can compete for. Criteria is different for each program, and are often based on achievements of various types, membership in specific demographics, minority status, or field you’re studying. In Arkansas, there are several scholarships available.

Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund

The ASPSF looks to help single parents attend college. It’s open to residents of Arkansas who are single or divorced and have at least 50 percent custody of a minor child, have a 2.0 GPA, and don’t already have a bachelor’s degree. The scholarship varies by year and county of residence, and you can apply year-round.

Military Dependents Scholarship

Also called the MIA/KIA Dependents Scholarship before 2005, this program offers scholarships to the kids of those soldiers who are missing or killed in action, as well as those who are 100 percent disabled as a result of their military service. The program covers the unpaid portion of tuition, mandatory fees, and a room/meal plan. You must maintain a 2.0 GPA while on scholarship.

Governor’s Distinguished Scholarships

If you are an Arkansas senior with an ACT score of 32, a 1410 on your SAT, and have a 3.5 GPA or higher, you can compete for the Governor’s Distinguished Scholarships, which offers up to $10,000 per year toward education at an in-state institution.

Academic Challenge Scholarship

This scholarship is open to college students from Arkansas who are pursuing a college degree at an in-state school, regardless of their age or academic status. The deadline to apply is July 1, 2019, and you can get $2,000 to $5,000, depending on your year in school.

Arkansas College Grants

Grants, like scholarships, are money that you won’t have to pay back after graduation. They’re generally based upon your financial need, and most of them are applied for simply by filling out the FAFSA. In many cases, they’re awarded as part of your financial aid package, although a few can be applied for above and beyond your package to fill any additional funding gaps.

Arkansas Future (ArFuture) Grant

The most recent addition to the Arkansas state financial aid award programs, the ArFuture grant seeks to help the state workforce increase its education level. It’s geared for students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, or other fields that are in high demand in the state. The grant covers all tuition and fees for trade certificates and Associate degree programs and is given on a first-come, first-served basis. To qualify, you’ll need to have resided in the state for the last three years, complete the FAFSA, and be enrolled in an eligible program in-state. The deadline for applying is 1 July 2019.

Arkansas Health Education Grant (ARHEG)

The ARHEG is open to graduate students training in chiropractic medicine, dentistry, optometry, osteopathic medicine, pediatric medicine, and veterinary medicine. Unlike other grants, the ARHEG is designed to allow Arkansas students to attend out-of-state programs in the hopes they’ll come back to Arkansas to practice. The deadline to apply is 1 July 2019.

Arkansas Workforce Challenge

This grant is for workforce training in high demand fields such as healthcare, information technology, and industry. Unlike other programs, it is open to those attending non-credit workforce training classes and skills training. You must be a resident of the state, a high school graduate, and be accepted into an eligible program. The deadline is rolling. You can apply up to 30 days before you enroll in your program.