Editorial: Rise in student aid applications a good sign for WV

The Herald-Dispatch editorial

t is really one of the first steps toward going to college or community college.

But in recent years, only about half of West Virginia high school seniors have made it that far.

So, it is encouraging to see that by the end of June this year, almost two-thirds of the state’s seniors had completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, called FAFSA for short.

That’s up from about 57 percent from two years ago.

This application starts the process that opens up the opportunity for students to win a Promise Scholarship, but also to qualify for many forms of federal student aid, including Pell Grants.

The state Higher Education Policy Commission has been championing efforts to get more West Virginia students to apply for several years, and those programs seem to be working.

Kanawha County schools, in particular, saw significant increases, thanks to a $55,000 grant that funded a broad-based program to get students to apply. But many schools in our region also showed more applications than a year ago, as well.

Ramping up the percentage of students who apply is critical, because as the cost of higher education increases, students may give up before they even get started.

“Cost is always a major factor in a student’s decision to attend college,” said Dr. Paul Hill of the Higher Education Policy Commission. “Sadly, research shows that many students who might qualify for financial aid are missing out because they don’t apply.”

They also are missing out on their best chance to improve their economic future. Most of today’s jobs and even more of tomorrow’s jobs will require education and training beyond a high school degree, and job applicants who do not have that education are going to struggle making a living wage.

Getting that one-year, two-year or four-year degree will make a big difference, and with a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, help is available.

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