The PROMISE Scholarship is a $4,750 scholarship awarded to West Virginia graduating seniors who maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average and earn an ACT 22 composite score with a minimum of 20 in English, mathematics, science, and reading.
Data from the past five years released by the West Virginia High Education Policy Commission shows that 49,982 West Virginia high school students have been awarded the PROMISE Scholarship. That breaks down to an average of 9,996 students each year. The monetary value of the almost 50,000 scholarship awards amounts to $233,990,505 assisting West Virginia high school students who pay for post-secondary education. The average yearly amount of more than $46 million dollars helps make college somewhat affordable for West Virginia students.
The recent news that PROMISE Scholarship money for graduating seniors is not yet guaranteed by the state of WV is an abject failure of our state government to make education a priority. The news is disappointing on a number of fronts. The legislature’s failure to agree on a budget has put scholarship money in limbo for students set to graduate this month. Students who have already chosen a college based on financial aid information that included the PROMISE scholarship are now faced with questions about whether they will be able to afford their chosen college or if they can attend college at all.
From a philosophical standpoint, the budget failure illustrates that state legislators are more concerned with political posturing than the future of West Virginia. Since 2002, WV students have counted on the PROMISE Scholarship as financial means to attend college. These students have worked diligently to achieve a 3.0 grade point average and a passing ACT score in order to earn the PROMISE Scholarship. The implementation of the PROMISE scholarship not only made college a reality for many WV high school students, but also helped keep graduating seniors in the state, attending our colleges and universities.
The state has already reduced the PROMISE from a full tuition scholarship to an amount of$4,750 which does not cover full tuition at any state college or university. Now the invaluable scholarship is being held hostage.
To make West Virginia competitive on the national scale, we need to encourage students to be educated and remain in our great state. Too many West Virginians now live in Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, or North Carolina. At what point do we make a conscious decision to take steps to keep the future of our state in our state. Funding the PROMISE Scholarship this year and beyond is but one step in that direction. Much more work needs to be done, but I urge those in positions of power to keep the PROMISE they made to West Virginia’s youth.
Jason Marling is the curriculum principal at John Marshall High School.