South Dakota. Opportunity Scholarship. Frequently Asked Questions

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1 South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship Frequently Asked Questions Question: What is the difference between a Regents Scholar Diploma and the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship? Answer: The Regents Scholar Diploma has been awarded for many years by the state of South Dakota, based on criteria established by the South Dakota Board of Regents. It is a commemorative certificate issued by the Department of Education that says the student completed the Regents Scholar curriculum and is automatically eligible for admission to one of the six public universities governed by the Board of Regents. A high school administrator submits a list of students who qualify and the Education Department issues the certificates, which are often handed out at high school graduation ceremonies or awards night. Regents Scholar Diplomas will continue to be processed by the South Dakota Department of Education. The South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship is a new program that awards a $5,000 scholarship over four years to qualifying high school graduates, beginning with the Class of 2004, who complete the Regents Scholar curriculum and maintain certain academic standards. Eligibility is based on an application submitted to the South Dakota postsecondary institution by the student, along with an official high school transcript and verification of a minimum ACT score of 24 (or a SAT score where the sum of the verbal and mathematics scores is at least 1070). Question: Will the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship be available to students who graduated from high school last year (Class of 2003), or to any other previous graduating classes? Answer: No. State lawmakers this year specified that the scholarship funds would be distributed for the use of college freshmen that are newly enrolled in the academic year Legislators further directed that eligibility for the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship begin with the high school graduating class of Scholarship funds will not be retroactively applied to previous classes. Question: Can I sit out a year or two after high school graduation this spring and still qualify for a scholarship? Answer. Yes, under certain circumstances. You must enter into the scholarship program within five years of high school graduation, or within one year of release from active military service, if that release is within five years of the date of your high school graduation. 1

2 Question: Can I go to school in another state for a while and then come back to South Dakota and still qualify for an Opportunity Scholarship? Answer: No. Under the law, you lose your eligibility if you first attend full time (i.e. enroll for 12 or more credit hours per term on a semester basis) any university, college, or technical school located outside of South Dakota. Scholarship eligibility also does NOT extend to degree programs offered through a non-south Dakota distance learning institution, since instruction must be provided from a campus located in South Dakota. Question: What kind of score do I need to get on my college entrance exams (ACT or SAT) to qualify for a South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship? Answer: The composite score on the ACT must be at least 24, or the sum of the verbal and mathematics scores on the SAT must be at least The ACT or SAT test also must be taken before the student graduates from high school. Question: What is the scholarship application deadline? Answer: It is recommended that the initial scholarship application be submitted by June 1, so that the financial aid office at the higher education institution can begin to work with eligible students to package a scholarship award. The final application deadline is August 15, Question: If I meet eligibility requirements, will I have to compete with other eligible students to receive this scholarship? Is it first-come, first serve? Answer: All students who meet eligibility requirements and complete the necessary application procedures can expect to receive a scholarship award. If the number of eligible recipients exceeds the amount of money appropriated for the scholarship by the South Dakota Legislature, the scholarship may be prorated and distributed to each recipient proportionately. Question: Who will determine that I have taken the right courses to qualify for the scholarship? Answer: An authorized high school representative must sign off on the scholarship application form, certifying that the student completed all necessary courses. It is important that the student and the high school review the applicant s academic record carefully and confirm scholarship eligibility, before an application is submitted. An official high school transcript and verification of the student s ACT or SAT score is also required with the application. When received at the admitting South Dakota university, college, or technical school, admissions officials will review the student s transcript to confirm final eligibility. Scholarship applications and related documents will also be subject to periodic audit by the South Dakota Board of Regents or its designee. The Board of Regents is the agency responsible by law for administering the scholarship program. 2

3 Question: The Regents Scholar criteria refer to no final grade below a C and an average grade of B? What is the difference between final grade and average grade? Answer: Final grade refers to the grade shown on a student s transcript for any Regents Scholar course. The average grade of B refers to a student s cumulative high school grade point average; in other words, a student s cumulative high school GPA must be 3.0 on a 4.0 scale to qualify for the scholarship. Question: My school gives plus and minus grades. If a C- is awarded as a final grade in a Regents Scholar course, do I qualify for the scholarship? Answer: No final grade below a C equals a 2.0 grade point on a 4.0 scale. A final grade of C- on the transcript clearly equals something less than a C, and so would disqualify the student for a South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship. The following chart shows how letter grades convert to numeric grade points for South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship eligibility: Letter Grade Grade Point A+ and A 4.00 A B B 3.00 B C C 2.00 C D D 1.00 D F 0.00 Question: Does anything besides a course taken in high school satisfy the Regents Scholar curriculum? Answer: Yes, in limited circumstances. The approved curriculum generally refers to high school courses taken in grades However, accelerated or honors mathematic courses in the 8 th grade, i.e. 8 th algebra, may be accepted, as well as accelerated or honors science courses in biology, physics, or chemistry provided in the 8 th grade. If such 8th grade courses are completed, the high school must include those courses on the student s high school transcript. It is important to remember that eligibility for a South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship is based on review of the official high school transcript. 3

4 Question: What South Dakota postsecondary institutions qualify to accept a South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship? Answer: The scholarship may be used at any university, college, or technical school in South Dakota that is accredited by the North Central Association (NCA). Most institutions in South Dakota are regionally accredited by NCA. The school also must provide instruction from a campus located in South Dakota. Question: Is there any way I can meet the course requirements for the scholarship if I am already a senior in high school and about to graduate? Answer: The South Dakota Board of Regents has established transition plans to assist Spring 2004 high school graduates with the minimum required ACT or SAT scores who have not fulfilled the Regents Scholar criteria by the date of graduation to meet the criteria. If a Spring 2004 graduate is between ½ and one unit short of the required number of units in a particular category, he/she may meet the requirement by completing one of the following options prior to the time of Fall 2004 college enrollment. Completing either of these first two options also means the student will earn college credit, as well as meet criteria for the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship: Enroll in a college-level correspondence course or college course and obtain a grade of C (2.0 on a 4.0 scale) or higher. For ½ unit, 3 hours of college credit are needed. For one unit, 6 hours of college credit are needed. Sit for an Advanced Placement (AP) examination in the subject area and obtain the appropriate score as specified by the South Dakota Board of Regents AP policy. The policy may be accessed on the Web at: The Center for Statewide E-learning at Northern State University also plans to offer three high school credit courses in physics, senior math and Spanish 2 this summer (during June and July) to help meet special needs of graduating seniors to satisfy scholarship criteria. Applications will be accepted over the phone or by beginning March 29, For more details, see the E-learning Center s Web site at: Since the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship was funded late in the school year, this transition plan is designed only to assist those 2004 high school seniors who are very close to meeting course requirements at time of graduation this spring. 4

5 Question: How do I get credit for any special course I might take this summer as part of this transition plan? Answer: If a student opts to take a college course, AP exam, or NSU Center for Statewide E- learning high school course to fulfill any high school course requirements, the high school must record that final grade or score on the student s high school transcript. This is necessary because verification of eligibility for a South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship is based on the high school curriculum and a review of the official high school transcript. Question: The Regents Scholar curriculum calls for two units in modern or classical language? Does that have to be two years of the same language or can I take Spanish I and French I, for example? Answer: The intent has always been for a student to take two years of instruction in the same language. The written policy has been clarified to make it very clear that the Regents Scholar curriculum intends a student to take two years of courses in the same language; for example, Spanish I and Spanish II. However, since there have been varying interpretations of the policy in the past, an exception to the same language requirement will be made this year only for Class of 2004 graduates. Students in the Class of 2005 and after must comply with written policy that the two units taken will be in the same language. Juniors or underclassmen that need to take a second year of the language requirement should work closely with their teachers and counselors to identify courses available through their high schools, through distance learning, or through correspondence. No exceptions to this requirement will be made for students in the Class of 2005 or after. Question: I live on the border of South Dakota and attend high school in another state? Am I eligible for the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship? Answer: Yes. The law says you must be a resident of South Dakota at the time you graduate from high school. So if you live in South Dakota, but attended high school out of state, you may still qualify. Similarly, a student in a military family who has maintained South Dakota residency but the student attends high school out of state will qualify under that definition. Question: Can I extend my scholarship to cover more than four years of study? Answer: No. The scholarship covers up to four academic years (that is, eight consecutive fall and spring terms), or until you attain your bachelor degree, associate degree, or technical degree, whichever comes first. Once a scholarship recipient attains that first bachelor, associate, or technical degree, eligibility for further scholarship funding ends. 5

6 Question: What will I have to do to maintain my eligibility once I get the scholarship? Answer: A student must meet certain continuing requirements or the scholarship renewal award is cancelled. In order to maintain scholarship eligibility, a college student will have to: Maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale, calculated after the second semester and for every semester after that. If the cumulative GPA falls below 3.0, the recipient forfeits the scholarship for the subsequent semester and for additional semesters after that until eligibility is reestablished. The scholarship will be reinstated beginning in the semester after which the student has raised the cumulative GPA back to 3.0 or greater, and met other continuing eligibility requirements. Reinstating a lapsed scholarship does not extend the time allowed under the scholarship program, and students who lose eligibility a second time cannot reestablish it in any event. Complete consecutive spring and fall terms; the scholarship does not apply to summer terms. Complete a minimum of 15 credit hours of instruction per term. (Remedial courses do NOT qualify toward the 15 credit hours.) Sit for and meet, on the first attempt, the minimum passing scores established by the South Dakota Board of Regents on all sections of the BOR college proficiency examination. NOTE: Under limited circumstances, the Board of Regents executive director may grant exceptions to the continuous enrollment and credit hour provisions. Students must petition the executive director in writing to consider such circumstances. Question: Will I be able to keep my scholarship if I transfer to another school? Answer: Recipients may transfer among eligible South Dakota postsecondary institutions and retain their scholarship eligibility, as long as they meet all other criteria noted above. Transferring out of state terminates eligibility. For more information, contact: South Dakota Board of Regents South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship Program 306 E. Capitol Ave., Suite 200 Pierre, SD (605) Web site: 6

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