Director presents evidence to support the Arkadelphia Promise is working.
Evidence to support the fact that the Arkadelphia Promise is working was presented Tuesday to the Arkadelphia Board of Education. According to Jason Jones, executive director of the Arkadelphia Promise, the number of students who remain in college from their freshman to sophomore year has increased tremendously since the Arkadelphia Promise was implemented in the 2011 class. In 2010, before the announcement of the Arkadelphia Promise, Jones said approximately 63 percent of Arkadelphia High School students enrolled in college. Since then, more than 75 percent of the class of 2011 enrolled in college. "It's not my place to take the credit, but it was because of the Promise. There is no doubt," Jones said. In addition, 63 of the original 90 who enrolled during their freshman year, enrolled as sophomores for a 70 percent retention rate which puts Arkadelphia's numbers above the state and national average. Jones noted that more students from the class of 2012 decided to enter the military as opposed to going to college. Sixty-four of the original 78 enrolled for their sophomore year for a retention rate of 82 percent which was also ahead of the state and national average. For the class of 2013, there were 91 of 123 graduates who enrolled in the fall of 2013 for 74 percent. "I don't have much information on these guys because they are just now entering their second semester," Jones said. Jones always gives credit to Southern Bancorp and The Ross Foundation for their efforts in funding the Promise. "This would not have happened without those two great organizations. They are so good to me. People at Southern and at Ross support me in every way I ever ask. They are outstanding partners," said Jones. Jones explained that the Arkansas Challenge Scholarship helped make the Arkadelphia Promise possible. "The Clark County Strategic Plan looked at doing something like a Promise before the Lottery Scholarship came along and the numbers would not work. It was too expensive to pay what had to be paid," Jones said. Thanks to the Arkansas Challenge Scholarship, the Arkadelphia Promise now "layer" on top of the lottery money. In addition, willing funders helped to get the Promise going. Jones noted there only two Promise programs in the state of Arkansas and very few actual programs across the country. "I share this with our high school students and the parents because, as with anything, whenever you are given something a lot of times you take it for granted and that's one thing I refuse to let happen with the Arkadelphia Promise. Jones noted that Arkadelphia is one of about five programs that are the "envy" of the rest of the country in the realm of wanting to have a Promise program. According to Jones, El Dorado has a $50-million Promise that is functioning very well. In addition, Jones noted a Promise program in Kalamazoo, Mich. that is anonymously funded forever for how ever much money is needed. In order to receive the Arkadelphia Promise, Jones noted that students must qualify for the Arkansas Challenge Scholarship, apply for the Challenge Scholarship, the Arkadelphia Promise, and two additional scholarships, and fill out their FAFSA. Parents and students must file their income taxes. Students must have either a 19 on the ACT or a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5. Jones noted the Lottery Scholarship was initially $20,000 over a four-year period. Because of changes made by the Arkansas Legislature, the amount has been reduced to $14,000 over a four-year period. "Fortunately we had enough things built into our spreadsheet. We have been able to maximize the money that's been promised to us to help our students going forward," said Jones. Initially, the Challenge Scholarship provided beginning freshmen with $5,000 a year. After one year, the amount was dropped to $4,500 a year where it remained for two years. According to Jones, freshman now receive $2,000 a year with a $1,000 increase each year they remain in college. Because of these changes, Jones said coordinators with the Arkadelphia Promise upped their payment on the front end. The amounts reduce as the students get older. "We know that most families have to work on a budget. We tried to get it to where they can count on a consistent amount of money every year from the Promise and the Lottery," said Jones. Students received approximately $6,500 a year between the Arkadelphia Promise and Arkansas Challenge Scholarship. Jones said the easiest way to determine if a student will retain the Arkadelphia Promise is if they retain their Arkansas Challenge Scholarship.