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Arkansas college application campaign begins

 Students at Little Rock Southwest High School speak with a recruiter from Arkansas State University on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022.
Daniel Breen
Students at Little Rock Southwest High School speak with a recruiter from Arkansas State University on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022.

High schoolers across Arkansas are being encouraged to apply to college or seek other post-secondary opportunities as part of national College Application Month.

The Arkansas College Application Campaign kicked off Wednesday with a rally at Little Rock Southwest High School. Part of a nationwide effort, the campaign seeks to increase the number of first-generation college students, as well as students from low-income families pursing degrees, technical certificates, apprenticeships or military service after graduating.

Speaking to students, Sonja Wright-McMurray with the state Department of Education’s Division of Career and Technical Education praised soon-to-be college students for their determination.

“You have experienced and gone through things that none of us could even begin to imagine as a high school student. Persevering through the early stages of COVID, having to do in-person and [out-of-school] instruction and then coming back and being expected to traditionally go through the process of preparing for life after high school needs to be commended,” Wright-McMurray said.

Alisha Lewis with the Education Department’s Division of Higher Education said about 1,200 students have utilized a new application portal known as the Scholarship Application Management System, or SAMS, since going live on Monday.

Southwest High senior Lauryn Howard is national secretary for the nonprofit JAG, or Jobs for America’s Graduates. She says similar programs are needed in order for students to feel adequately prepared for life after high school.

“For students that do go on to college, they end up taking out loans to aid in the payment for their education. And while this is an option that is heavily pushed onto students who either can’t afford college or don’t have the extensive educational background to earn a full-ride scholarship, it often leaves students with crippling debt,” Howard said.

Students on Wednesday also got a chance to meet with recruiters from several local colleges, including Henderson State University, Philander Smith College and UA-Pulaski Tech. Schools around the state will host similar events over the next several weeks.

Daniel Breen is a Little Rock-based reporter, anchor and producer for KUAR.