CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Applications for college scholarships are down compared to this time last year, with Sarah Armstrong Tucker of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission blaming the coronavirus pandemic for the difference.
Tucker, the commission’s chancellor, noted to MetroNews while the deadline for the PROMISE Scholarship is in March, the number of submissions is below pace.
“This time last year, we had more than 6,700 students who had already filled out their PROMISE applications,” she said. “This time this year, we are around 2,300 students.”
The PROMISE Scholarship provides up to $4,750 annually to students for covering college tuition and fees at West Virginia institutions.
“The way that the application used to get filled out in a lot of our high schools is that guidance counselors and teachers would take all of the seniors to a computer lab at one time. Everybody would fill out the PROMISE Scholarship application together,” Tucker explained. “That can’t happen right now.”
Tucker said with increases in homeschooling and virtual learning, fewer students are hearing about scholarship opportunities.
“Those students aren’t getting a guidance counselor sitting in front of them saying, ‘OK, it’s time to fill out your PROMISE application right now,'” she added.
Tucker said declining scholarship interest is not a West Virginia problem but a nationwide issue.
“I think so many people are focused on the here and now because they have to be,” she said. “They have to be focused on how do they keep their community safe and how do they keep themselves and their family safe. They’re not thinking about their future, but their future is going to come.”
Tucker noted with the holiday break in December, families should talk about financial assistance.
“Take this time when we can’t be out and about with folks and fill out those FAFSA and PROMISE applications,” she said. “Find out what it means to go to college and how much money you have in order to be able to go.”
The state Higher Education Policy Commission learned earlier this month overall student enrollment decreased by 2.8% from last fall to this season, and freshmen enrollment fell for a fifth straight year.