CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — New data from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission shows that less than half of West Virginia high school graduates enrolled in college in 2020.
“In response, we have been doing a lot of modifications to our state financial aid programs, so more students can qualify and try and make it easier for students to obtain state financial aid to go to college this fall,” said Brian Weigart with the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.
Some universities believe students may need more help to get enrollment up—for example, the Promise Scholarship, which deadline has been moved to July 1.
“The amount of the promise scholarship hasn’t changed in ten years. So it’s been $4,750 a year. And obviously, that stayed the same but tuition didn’t,” said Dr. Beth Wolfe at the University of Charleston.
The percent of graduates attending college in West Virginia is down from last year’s 50.5% and is at its lowest number since the year 2000.
“We have seen some students who were admitted to us for last fall who didn’t enroll who then contacted us and said I’d like to come this fall,” said Dr. Wolfe.
The pandemic did play a role in this drop, but some admissions offices say it’s not the only factor. One reason for the drop in data could be attributed to the different options West Virginia provides for schooling, like trade and technical schools.
“This is probably one of the most cost-effective forms of education you can get because you can go from making minimum wage to making nearly double that for a one-year program,” said Stephen Hall, Charleston School of Beauty.
Currently in West Virginia almost 75,000 students attend technical two year institutions.
“We encourage students to pursue post-secondary education at all levels. Whether again that is at the community college level, the four-year level. Or even vocational or trade schools,” said Weingart.