CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia ranks among the bottom in the nation for its college-going rates, but state officials are hoping a massive information campaign will help turn that around.Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has proclaimed Nov. 14-18 as "College Application and Exploration Week," a five-day push to help students and their families gear-up for education beyond high school. "Completing some form of education and training beyond high school, whether through certificate programs, two-year degree, or four-year degree programs, is an essential step for our citizens as they strive to compete in the global workforce," Tomblin said.Sixty-five high schools and four YMCAs across the state have planned a variety of activities, including college application labs and workshops, college scavenger hunts and trivia contests, and panel discussions with current college students.
According to the Higher Education Policy Commission, only 59 percent of West Virginia high school graduates went to college in 2010. That's below the national average of almost 64 percent and below the college-going rates of states in the southern region.Brian Noland, chancellor of the Policy Commission, said College Application week isn't just about filling out paperwork. He hopes it will spark a statewide culture-change."College Application and Exploration Week is an opportunity to encourage a college-going culture throughout our state," Noland said. "This is an opportunity for us to build enthusiasm for higher education and to reach out to students who have not yet realized their full potential and assist them in discovering their passion and exploring their options."For every 100 ninth graders in the state, only 72 graduate from high school, according to the Policy Commission. Only 43 of those students enter college.West Virginia's effort is part of a growing national initiative to increase the college-going rate -- particularly among families in which neither parent attended college. College Application and Exploration Week began in North Carolina in 2005 and has since spread to seven other states including West Virginia. The state piloted the program in 24 West Virginia counties in 2010.Additional online resources about college access and applications are available at CFWV.com, the state's free college- and career-planning web portal. Reach Amy Julia Harris at email@example.com or 304-348-4814.