Posted 6/5/2013 02:32 pm
Updated 6 months ago
LITTLE ROCK - Gov. Mike Beebe on Wednesday asked to use $1.1 million from a state reserve fund to make up for a shortfall in a program that helps students pursuing medical degrees that Arkansas schools don't offer pay for tuition at schools in other states.
Beebe said he'll seek legislative approval to help the Arkansas Health Education Grants program using money from the state's Rainy Day Fund, which will have $34.4 million starting July 1. Lawmakers will consider the request next month.
The grants help students pay out-of-state tuition for medical programs not offered at Arkansas schools, including veterinary medicine, dentistry and optometry. Dwindling fund balances have left the state with enough money to continue existing aid, but the program faces cuts in new awards for incoming students.
The money will pay for assistance for 47 incoming students, interim Higher Education Director Shane Broadway said.
Beebe said the program helps the state meet shortages in those areas, but warned that the money is just a one-time solution. Beebe said the program will need additional funding next year, and said he'll call on the Legislature to increase funding for the program. Lawmakers convene for next year's session in February.
"Even though we've been telling everybody for years that the fund balances are getting low and if they didn't do something we wouldn't be able to meet the needs, people still didn't listen," Beebe said. "So we got the ability to let these students that were counting on it to enter this year to get this assistance...We're telling them that this is a one year deal and if the Legislature in February doesn't recognize the need and take care of it, then there's not going to be any opportunity going forward."
Beebe announced the decision after meeting with several students who qualified for the grants on Monday.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, broadcast or distributed.)