Millions in college grant dollars available for students
CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission is aiming for at least 70 percent of high school seniors to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid by April 15, 2020. Without completing this application, West Virginia’s students are potentially missing out on millions of dollars in available federal and state tuition assistance.
To be eligible for all federal and most state financial aid programs, students must file the FAFSA. Those who file are considered for the Federal Pell Grant, which awards up to $6,195 annually to students to cover the cost of tuition and other education expenses.
Submitting the FAFSA also is the first step for West Virginians to qualify for state scholarships and grants. Those include the PROMISE Scholarship, which awards up to $4,750 annually; the West Virginia Higher Education Grant, which awards up to $2,800 annually; the new Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholars at $10,000 annually, and the West Virginia Invests Grant, the “tuition free” community college program.
Among the schools that met or exceeded last year’s 63 percent FAFSA completion goal by the April 15 deadline are: Harman Elementary/High School and Tucker County High School.
Policy Commission Interim Chancellor Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker said every student who wants to further their education should file the FAFSA, regardless of their family’s financial status.
“Students may be eligible for many types of financial aid or scholarships and not even be aware until they start this universal application,” Tucker said. “West Virginia has generous financial aid programs and our colleges and universities are still very affordable, especially when you consider the grants and scholarships that are on the table.”
The Commission administers more than $104 million in student financial aid each year and West Virginia ranks in the top 10 states in providing financial aid. The Commission also provides statewide seminars and training to help families complete the FAFSA and understand how to apply for grants and scholarships. If students have difficulty filing their FAFSA, they can contact the state financial aid hotline at 1-888-825-5707.
Brian Weingart, senior director for financial aid, said a key goal is to make sure college is affordable for any student who desires to go.
“We are doing everything we can to help students apply for financial aid,” Weingart said. “Completing the FAFSA is the most important step and by filing this one form, students can be considered to receive grants from both the state and federal government. West Virginia is investing thousands of dollars in each of our students to help them get through college and create opportunities for them and our state’s future.”
March 1 is the deadline for students to submit a FAFSA and the PROMISE Scholarship application to be considered for the PROMISE Scholarship, and April 15 is the deadline for students to submit the FAFSA to be considered for the West Virginia Higher Education Grant Program. Students who plan to pursue education or training beyond high school during the 2020-21 academic year can now complete the 2020-21 FAFSA online at www.fafsa.gov using their 2018 tax returns.
Students who wish to apply for the PROMISE Scholarship can do so now at www.cfwv.com/PROMISE. Applications for the WV Invests Grant are currently being accepted at wvinvests.org and the application for the Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholars program is at teachinwv.com.
Staff from the Division of Financial Aid at the Commission are working with college and university partners to help increase financial aid awareness throughout communities in the state. As a result, hundreds of free financial aid and FAFSA workshops are scheduled throughout the academic year. A full list of workshops is available at http://cfwvconnect.com/community-calendar.
CFWV is West Virginia’s college- and career-planning resource. The initiative is led by the Commission in partnership with the Community and Technical College System and the West Virginia Department of Education.