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WASHINGTON — A national education organization is again offering more than 400 college scholarships to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to thank them for their sacrifice.

The Horatio Alger Association, which has awarded the veteran- specific scholarships since 2005, has given more than 1,900 grants to servicemembers who deployed to the combat zones, according to group spokeswoman Chelsea Cummings.

The application period for the 2008 scholarships opened this week. The $5,000 award must be used to pursue a bachelor’s degree at an accredited college in the United States.

Officials hope to award 416 scholarships for coursework to begin this fall. To be eligible, applicants must meet several criteria:

n Service in the military in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom

n An honorable service record while in the military

n Demonstrate critical financial need

n Demonstrate “strength of character and perseverance in overcoming adversity.”

Veterans already attending college who have fewer than 60 credit hours and at least a 2.0 GPA are also eligible for the scholarship, if they also meet the above criteria.

The application deadline is April 15. All applicants will be notified in late spring as to whether they have received the award.

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