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Legislative Lookahead: Free community college plan picks up steam in WV Legislature

The Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Legislature is likely to tackle a plan to make community college more affordable — perhaps going so far as to make it free for West Virginia students — agreed lawmakers participating in an education panel for the West Virginia Press Association’s Legislative Lookahead Friday.

Delegate Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, discusses possible legislation that would impact education in West Virginia during the West Virginia Press Association’s Legislative Lookahead Friday, Jan. 5, in Charleston. West Virginia Press Association Photo

The idea, first floated publicly last week by Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, is picking support on both sides of the aisle. Delegate Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, said during the panel he plans to introduce a similar plan to create a scholarship program that would make community college free for West Virginians.

Rowe’s plan, which he said he’d like to call the Hope Scholarship, would be similar to the Promise Scholarship in requiring students to meet certain and standardized testing requirements.

“I think the Promise Scholarship has transformed [West Virginia University] into a top-level institution, because it’s kept the top students in the state,” Rowe, a member of the House education committee, said. “In terms of what we’re talking about now with the Hope Scholarship, it’s really making it possible for the average, regular student who is going to be kind to their community and isn’t going to leave.”

Students who receive the scholarship under the plan Rowe is proposing would need at minimum a 2.5 GPA and a score of 16 on the ACT. Rowe did not say Friday how high a student would need to score on the SAT, West Virginia’s new standardized test for juniors in high school.

Rowe’s threshold would be less than the Promise, which has a 3.0 GPA requirement and a score of 22 on the ACT or 1100 on the SAT.

Still, students who would hypothetically come into community college on the lower end of Rowe’s threshold would need to take several remedial courses to be prepared for entry-level college courses, according to state standards.

Rowe said he wants the program to be particularly beneficial to non-traditional college students — adults who might have lost their job and want to go back to school. …

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