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Wise promises that aid won't be cut

The West Virginia governor made his pledge during a financial aid workshop at Hedgesville High School Tuesday night.

The West Virginia governor made his pledge during a financial aid workshop at Hedgesville High School Tuesday night.

December 18, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

HEDGESVILLE - West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise pledged Tuesday night that neither the PROMISE Scholarship nor the Higher Education Grant Program will be cut or receive less funding, despite the state's projected $250 million budget shortfall and impending budget cuts.

Wise made the announcement during a financial aid workshop for parents and students at Hedgesville High School. Around 100 people attended.

After the workshop, Wise told reporters that over the next four years, $27 million in lottery funds have been allocated for the merit-based PROMISE Scholarship program. Under the program, tuition to a public state college or university is paid for students with a 3.0 or higher GPA who score at least a 21 on the ACT or 1,000 combined on the SAT. Comparable tuition costs are paid for those who wish to attend a private college instead.

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If more than $27 million is needed to fund the program, Wise said he would ask the Legislature for the additional funding - and love it.

That would mean more students are eligible - students who may stay in the state after graduating from college, Wise said.

Some have criticized the PROMISE program, saying only students who plan to attend college anyway receive it.

"So what?" Wise said.

Even if a millionaire's child uses a PROMISE Scholarship, and then stays in West Virginia after graduation, he or she will soon pay more in taxes than what the state doled out for tuition, he said.

Although the scholarship program will not receive less funding, officials are considering whether to raise eligibility requirements, Wise said. Proposed changes include increasing the mandatory minimum scores on the ACT or SAT test, but would not affect current high school seniors, Wise said.

The scholarship program was implemented after Wise took office two years ago. The first class of PROMISE recipients enrolled in state colleges and universities in the fall. Nearly 4,000 students statewide received a scholarship.

"The PROMISE Scholarship is beginning to keep our young people at home," Wise said.

More than 70 percent of students who graduate from a state higher education institution stay in West Virginia, Wise said.

The year before PROMISE was implemented, 2,800 students stayed in the state for college. This year, 3,500 headed off to a college or university, Wise said.

At the workshop, Wise also discussed other ways to pay for college, including loans, tax credits and the state's pre-paid tuition program, in which parents can lock into current tuition rates for children who have not yet completed ninth grade.

The Higher Education Grant Program is based on a family's income. Up to 70 percent of an eligible student's tuition will be paid at a state college, or a comparable amount at a private school.

Jeff and Sharon Manor, whose daughter is considering attending either Shepherd College or Potomac State College in Keyser, W.Va., next fall, attended the forum to learn of financial aid opportunities.

Along with their daughter, Meghan, who will graduate next spring, the Manors also have twins who are high school juniors.

The couple said they found the session informative, and were especially interested in the PROMISE program, for which their daughter is eligible.

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