Arizona Republic
April 27, 2007

Author: Anne Ryman, The Arizona Republic Estimated printed pages: 3

Students who score high on the AIMS test may find it easier to qualify for tuition waivers at the three state universities. Others with slightly lower grade-point averages, however, may find it more difficult.

The Arizona Board of Regents on Thursday approved changes that will ease some restrictions and tighten others for the Regents High Honors Endorsement Award for next year's graduating class.

This year's college freshmen were the first to get the scholarship, which is nicknamed the AIMS scholarship after the statewide test in reading, writing and math. Students are eligible for free tuition if they meet three

* Earn "exceeds" scores on all three parts of the AIMS test.

* Have a 3.5 GPA or graduate in the top 5 percent of the class.

* Make at least Bs in a set of core courses.

Unlike some scholarships, students do not have to interview, write an essay or prove they did community service.

Among the changes the regents made:

* Some high schools used grades in all courses, even electives, to determine the scholarship GPA. The regents clarified that students need Bs or higher in 16 core courses. This could hurt students who rely on electives to push their GPAs past 3.5.

* School counselors worried some students would shy away from the more difficult advanced placement or International Baccalaureate courses for fear of earning a C and ruining their scholarship chances. The regents voted to accept "satisfactory" scores on the end-of-course AP and IB tests instead of course grades. This is defined as a 4 on an IB test and, depending on the subject, a 3 or 4 on AP tests.

* Graduating seniors usually have to wait until summer to find out whether they are eligible for the scholarship. By then, some have already accepted scholarships at other universities. Beginning this fall, high schools will notify students of their initial eligibility.

* The regents limited the number of times students can retake the AIMS test to earn an "exceeds" score. Beginning with the Class of 2009, the last opportunity to retake the test is spring semester of the junior year.
Students previously could retake the test through senior year in hopes of earning a higher score. This is expected to have minimal impact, because 98 percent of students who qualified already received "exceeds" scores by their junior year.

In the scholarship's first year, 1,561 students took advantage of the AIMS scholarship out of 2,489 who were eligible. This is less than 6 percent of Arizona high school graduates.

Many of the recipients would have qualified for other merit scholarships if the AIMS scholarship wasn't in place, so the regents had expected the financial impact to be minimal. However, total cost of the scholarships was
$7.1 million, which is $1.7 million more than expected.

Students must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA and take 24 credits a year to keep the scholarship. If tuition goes up after their freshman year, they must pay the difference.

For more information, see the Arizona Department of Education's Web site at