US Education Department grants waiver for higher education grant

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission will be able to use a full funding award from the U.S. Department of Education for services benefiting thousands of West Virginia students.

The Education Department awarded the funding for the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs grant initiative in September, but West Virginia officials expressed concerns regarding the ability to use the full amount over the designated seven-year period.

U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., announced last week the issue had been resolved.

“After Senator Capito and I urged Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to address an issue with the West Virginia GEAR UP award, the program will now be able to fully utilize $24.5 million over the next seven years to serve more than 17,500 high-need West Virginia students,” Manchin said in a press release.

“This is great news for our students, and I will keep fighting to help every West Virginian receive the quality, affordable education they need to be competitive in the 21st Century.”

The grant program aims to increase the number of low-income students entering college, in which states receive grant funding for services at middle and high schools located in areas with high poverty rates. The funding can also be used for providing scholarships to low-income students.

West Virginia was one of four states that received funding for a state grant. The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission requested a waiver so all the funding could be dedicated toward various resources.

Elizabeth Manuel, the senior director of student services at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, noted if the waiver did not happen, around 50% of the funds could not have been earmarked for programs, thus limiting the number of services to benefit by the program.

“We’re right now working to implement programs in these 11 counties, getting things underway,” she told MetroNews. “We’re thankful the U.S. Department of Education worked this out so that we’re able to utilize the full amount for resources for our students in West Virginia.”

The grant funding will increase the number of duel-enrollment courses, tutoring, credit recovery opportunities and mentorships.

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