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Keeping their PROMISE: Most retain scholarships

August 21, 2003

When historians look back at the administration of Gov. Bob Wise, one of the brightest moments will be the decision to fight for the PROMISE scholarships. A report just released shows that it paid off for 73 percent of those who attended college under the program last year.

No matter how much your family income is, PROMISE provides in-state tuition to pupils who maintain a 3.0 grade-point average in high school and earn a 21 score on the ACT entrance exam or a 1,000 on the SAT.

Once in college, students must earn a 2.75 average during their first two semesters to keep the scholarship. After that, the bar is raised, forcing them to maintain a 3.0 average.

Statewide, 73 percent kept their scholarships last year, according to Robert Morganstern, the program's director. He noted that in Georgia, which has a similar program, only 43 percent remained eligible after their first year.

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Some schools, including West Virginia State and Fairmont State, kept 78 of their PROMISE scholarships. In Associated Press interviews, both credit a special emphasis on retention efforts. Academically troubled students were contacted directly and advised on ways to bring up their grades.

AP also reported on a study done of 210 PROMISE recipients who attended the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. Of that group, the study found that those who failed to keep the scholarship were often less mature and less prepared for more rigorous study needed to pass college-level courses.

All of this suggests that the state's high schools need to provide students with a more realistic preview of what college entails. A student who is looking forward only to the freedom of being away from home needs to be told that freedom comes with a price.

That price is paid by hitting the books hard, to repay those who risked a great deal politically to pass the video-poker legislation that provides funding for PROMISE.

In 2003, the prosperity of the state and its citizens depends on getting more students to attend college. PROMISE provides the cash to get that, provided students keep up their end of the bargain.

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