Liz McCormick Published

Higher Ed Officials Change PROMISE Eligibility, Sponsor FAFSA Sign-Up Events

FAFSA Free application for federal student aid. Letters on the cubes.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a big impact on all students. This includes high school students — some of whom did not qualify for West Virginia’s PROMISE Scholarship this year.

There are also students who still have yet to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which, last fall, officials said submissions were down by 25 percent compared to the previous year.

Higher education leaders, however, are trying to address both issues.

Temporary Changes To PROMISE Eligibility

The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission voted Friday to temporarily change the requirements for applicants of the PROMISE Scholarship, to allow more students to now be eligible for aid.

On average the state sees about 3,200 eligible PROMISE recipients each year, according to officials, but for 2021, just 2,500 students are, so far, considered eligible.

“These students have struggled so much this year, and they have tried so hard,” West Virginia HEPC Chancellor Sarah Armstrong Tucker said. “I, as your chancellor, cannot recommend sitting on millions of dollars that should be given to students to help them forward their education. If we have the opportunity to make these changes to help hundreds of students, then I really believe that we ought to do it.”

The pandemic forced thousands of West Virginia students this year into inconsistent learning models, resulting in a third of K-12 students failing core subjects in the fall.

To help more students be eligible for aid, test score requirements have been lowered by a single point in all subjects, and the grade point averages for renewals this year have been waived:

  • For students in the high school graduating class of 2021: The standardized testing deadline to qualify for the PROMISE Scholarship has been extended from August 2021 to October 2021. Colleges and universities statewide are continuing to offer free ACT On-Campus exams.
  • For students in the high school graduating classes of 2021 and 2022: These students will now qualify for super-scoring to achieve the minimum standardized testing scores necessary to qualify for the PROMISE Scholarship. This allows students to take their top scores from sub-sections of different ACT or SAT tests and combine them for a higher overall score.
  • For students in the high school graduating class of 2021 receiving the PROMISE Scholarship for the first time in 2021-22: The test score requirements have been lowered as follows:
    • ACT composite score – 21 (regularly 22); ACT English score – 19 (regularly 20); ACT Reading score – 19 (regularly 20); ACT Science score – 19 (regularly 20); ACT Math score – 19 (regularly 20).
    • SAT composite score – 1080 (regularly 1100); SAT Evidenced-Based Reading and Writing score – 510 (regularly 530); SAT Math score – 510 (regularly 520).
    • For students who received either the Higher Education Grant or the PROMISE Scholarship for 2020-21 and are renewing it for the 2021-22 award year: The grade point average required for renewal is waived for this upcoming award year only.

“College Bound Saturday” To Tackle FAFSA Decline

This Saturday, students and families across the state will have opportunities to attend the state’s first ever “College Bound Saturday” events.

These free workshops will allow students to learn more about state and federal financial aid programs, as well as get direct help filing the FAFSA.

“We are working hard to bring direct help to students and their families as they continue making plans for college,” said Brian Weingart, HEPC’s senior director of financial aid. “Typically, we would have been in high schools across the state over the past year, [but due to COVID-19] our outreach has been largely virtual or over the phone. While we’ve been able to reach and help many students over that time, we know that direct, in-person support is always the best.”

Students who file the FAFSA at these events will be entered into a drawing and could win a free computer.

“College Bound Saturday” will be held on June 12 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the following locations across West Virginia:

  • Concord University (Athens, WV)
  • James Monroe High School (Lindside, WV)
  • Lincoln County High School (Hamlin, WV)
  • Marshall University (Huntington, WV)
  • Mid-Ohio Valley Center (Point Pleasant, WV)
  • Salem University (Salem, WV)
  • Shepherd University (Shepherdstown, WV)
  • Southern WV Community and Technical College (Mt. Gay, WV)
  • Spring Mills High School (Martinsburg, WV)
  • West Virginia University Institute of Technology (Beckley, WV)
  • West Virginia Northern Community College (Wheeling, WV)
  • West Virginia State University (Institute, WV)
  • West Virginia University (Morgantown, WV)

HEPC Chancellor Tucker said West Virginia has more than $100 million in state financial aid each year to help students and their families pay for college.

Students can pre-register for “College Bound Saturday” and find more information – including a list of items to bring here.