Area students receive PROMISE scholarships

April 17, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Area high school students lined up in the Martinsburg High School auditorium Friday to receive PROMISE Scholarships which offer free four-year tuition to any college or university run by the State of West Virginia.

When classes resume this fall, they will be among nearly 10,000 students statewide enjoying free tuition regardless family income.

To qualify, students must maintain a B average throughout high school and achieve a composite score of 21 on the ACT or 1,000 on the SAT.

New rules this year require students to score 19 points each on the four sub-core courses of English, math, science and reading on ACT tests. Rules also require a minimum of 470 points in English and 460 points in math, in addition to the 1,000 overall point requirement on SATs.


The new rules cut the number of students who qualified this year by about 800, said Lisa DeFrank-Cole, executive director of the PROMISE program.

Once in college, students must maintain a B average to keep the scholarship.

Students who go to a private college in West Virginia will receive about $2,900 a year from the program.

About 10 percent of the students turn them down when they choose to attend out-of-state-schools, DeFrank-Cole said.

Next year, it will cost the state $27 million to pay the tuition of the approximately 6,300 students already enrolled plus the 3,400 new ones expected to enter college this fall, DeFrank-Cole said.

West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, who initiated the program, said legislation easily passed the House of Delegates but made it through the state Senate by a single vote. State Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, who voted for the program, was on stage in the auditorium when Wise handed out the scholarships.

Wise said the program has two goals - encourage students to work harder with the reward of a free college education and increase enrollments in state-run colleges and universities.

The program is beginning to show results, he said. This is the first year that the number of students attending out-of-state colleges has declined, he said.

"We are keeping our best and brightest right here at home to attend school" he said. "After graduation, I hope you will look to our state to start your career and raise a family."

Students must be West Virginia residents. They can attend an out-of-state high school but must commute on a daily basis.

Wise handed out the scholarships Friday. Included were 58 students from Hedgesville High School, 36 from Martinsburg High School, 30 from Musselman High School, three from Faith Christian Academy, one from Berkeley Springs High School and one from Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy.

Not all of the students who were named as recipients were present in the auditorium, including three from St. Maria Goretti in Hagerstown.

Home-schooled students are also eligible for the scholarships, DeFrank-Cole said.

Wise aide Chris Ferro said the governor has been making the rounds since Monday handing out PROMISE Scholarships in Fayette, Mercer, Monongalia, Putnam, Cabell and Pendleton counties.

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