With WVHEPC extending Promise Scholarship deadline, high school seniors still have time to apply for financial help

Promise Scholarship for 2023-2024 academic year has been increased to $5,200

By Autumn Shelton, WV Press Association

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Although high school graduation is quickly approaching, there is still time for West Virginia’s seniors to apply for the Promise Scholarship and possibly receive thousands of dollars to offset the costs of a higher education.

On March 8, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (WVHEPC) made the decision to extend the application deadline for the Promise Scholarship until May 1. This merit-based scholarship is open to all high school seniors who have received an ACT composite score of 21 with a minimum of 19 in English, math, science and reading, or a 1080 SAT total score with a minimum of 510 in math, evidence-based reading and writing. 

According to Brian Weingart, WVHEPC senior director of financial aid, the total amount of the Promise Scholarship for the 2023-2024 academic year has been increased from $5,000 to $5,200. This increase will help students pay for the cost of tuition and fees at any West Virginia public four-year, public two-year and private non-profit college or university in any field of study.

“Everyone needs to find their own path and their own calling – whatever they are passionate about,” Weingart said. “For some people that might be a two-year degree or a one-year degree. But, obviously there are some occupations and careers that require four-year degrees. So, if you want to be a teacher, or if you want to go on to law school or medical school, if you want to be an engineer – a lot of times those require advanced training beyond a one or two year program.”

That is why Weingart said it’s important to apply for scholarships – like the Promise Scholarship. 

The easiest way to apply for the Promise Scholarship is by visiting collegeforwv.com and clicking on the Promise Scholarship link. However, the website also provides students with a list of all the state’s financial aid programs. 

Each Promise Scholarship applicant must also have a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) on file, Weingart continued. This application can be accessed by visiting studentaid.gov, and also has an extended deadline of May 1. 

Additionally, students can visit their high school guidance counselor for assistance. 

“The counselor is a great place to go in the high schools not only for state financial aid, but also for private scholarship applications from their area,” Weingart said. “Students can go there for a lot of great information.” 

This is how West Virginia State University (WVSU) Senior Kensley White said she began her journey into higher education working toward a degree in elementary education.

In middle school, White was a member of the WV GEAR UP program, a federally-funded program managed by the WVHEPC that helps students begin to achieve their dream of receiving a higher education, which is where she first heard of the Promise Scholarship. Then, while she attended Van Junior-Senior High School in Boone County, White said her guidance counselor became a huge help as she applied for the scholarship. 

“She did a workshop and someone from the state came in,” White recalled. “I am from a very low socio-economic area, so they brought in all the help they could to push my class to apply for things.” 

At that time, White said she wasn’t really sure about where she wanted to go to college, but she knew she wanted to become a teacher. Later, she made her decision to attend WVSU because it was close to home, and has a great teaching program. 

As for the Promise Scholarship, White said she was notified via email that she would be a recipient. 

“It’s literally the most low-maintenance scholarship that I have,” White stated. “All I have to do is make sure my grades and my transcripts are up-to-date and it automatically gets renewed for me. I don’t have to fill out a form every year. I just have to make sure I have the minimum credit hours to keep Promise, and they check that. You don’t even have to worry about that.” 

Each year, White explained that the Promise Scholarship is automatically renewed and paid into her account. 

“They separate it into two semesters for you, so it will pay for both semesters in an academic year,” White said. “Now they have even lowered the scores that you need to get Promise. It was a little more challenging when I had to get it.” 

White noted that the Promise Scholarship, as well as the help she received from her high school guidance counselor and those at the WVHEPC, has helped her achieve her dream of becoming a teacher. 

“The last thing you want to worry about as a student, or in my case as a student teacher because you are not paid, is financial burden, and getting that money – it’s $2,500 a semester that you don’t have to worry about – the financial burden is lifted off you,” White said. “I am about to be a teacher, and I am very proud. It wouldn’t have been possible without financial help from the scholarships I receive from the state, because I also have the Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholarship.” 

Upon graduation, White said she plans to teach in Boone County. 

“I would love to go back and give to my little community,” White said. “I feel like everyone wants to leave, no one wants to stay, but I am proud of where I’m from, and I want people to want to stay there too because that’s home.” 

White’s advice to high school seniors is to apply for every scholarship available and to talk to people who want to help. 

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to the university. Find someone that you can communicate with. If you have a friend, or you know someone who is going to college, don’t be afraid to reach out. Those people are going to help you and give you advice.” 

Lastly, White noted that students should reach out to those at the WVHEPC for assistance. 

“They are very helpful,” White said. “If you reach out to them, they are willing to throw money your way if you are willing to apply. They have the resources.” 

Since the Promise Scholarship began in 2002, Weingart said that 82,049 students have received an award – totaling $867 million. 

Funding for the Promise Scholarship is provided by the West Virginia State Legislature and is allocated out of the state’s general revenue and lottery funds, Weingart stated. 

“I always compare financial aid to a rubber band ball,” he continued. “There’s not a lot of students that get just one scholarship or grant that pays for everything. So, you have to fuse together all these different programs whether it’s WV Invests, the Promise Scholarship or need based programs, like the West Virginia Higher Education Grant or the federal Pell Grant. As you piece all these programs together, hopefully, it is such that college can be made affordable, and you can pursue your dreams.” 

Weingart concluded that although he grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, he studied secondary education specializing in math and social studies at Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi before ultimately taking on his current role helping West Virginia’s students obtain the finances for a higher education. 

He said that, like him, one never really knows where their degree might take them. 

“That’s the great thing about a college education.” 

To reach the WVHEPC for questions about the Promise Scholarship, or any other financial assistance, call 304-558-4618 or 1-877-987-7664. 

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