Starting next fall, West Virginia State University plans to freeze the cost of tuition for a portion of its student body.
Students who participate in the school’s Yellow Jacket Connection program, which allows high school students to earn credit toward a diploma and toward a college degree, will be eligible for a new tuition loyalty program.
“As educators, we have an obligation to make sure we can do all we can to help students and their families understand long-term what the financial burden is going to be,” said West Virginia State President Anthony Jenkins, who announced the program Monday afternoon.
Jenkins said he is open to the idea of expanding a tuition-freeze program to a wider portion of the school’s student body, but would need to first see how the program works out after it launches next fall. Jenkins said he hopes the program helps more low-income families send their children to school.
“I want to have an impact on that,” Jenkins said. “I don’t believe that a student’s household income should have an impact on their social mobility.”
To qualify for the tuition-freezing program, students will need to complete at least six credit hours — which is two college courses — in high school. Then as college student at West Virginia State, they will need to complete at least 15 credit hours each semester to remain in the program.
The program will ensure that, whatever tuition price students enroll at as freshmen, they will continue to pay that price through their senior year of school, regardless of what tuition increases the school’s governing board enacts.
Currently, high school students can earn college credit for just $25 per credit hour through West Virginia State, which works out to $150 for all six credits to qualify for the program. That dual credit rate is a steep discount compared to in-state students who pay $7,165 for a full year of tuition.
When the program started in 2012, there were 225 students participating in the dual enrollment program, according to Nathan Gainer, West Virginia State’s director of academic educational outreach. About 20 percent of students who participate in the program go on to study at West Virginia State.
This year, there are about 1,700 students participating in the program, according to Gainer. They hail from Kanawha, Putnam, Boone, Jackson and Clay counties.
“In our area, there are a lot of students who don’t know whether or not they can succeed in college because their parents never went,” Gainer said. “Even though they’re some of the best and brightest in the high school, they still struggle with, ‘Am I good enough?’ And, ‘Am I smart enough?’”
Once students finish one class through the program, they’re likely to gain the confidence to know they can complete more, Gainer said. Most students complete two or more classes, and Gainer said on the rare occasion a student arrives at campus with 30 credits.
School officials hope the move will be a continued boon to its enrollment. Last fall, West Virginia State increased its enrollment by about 10 percent, a rare feat in a state with a declining number of students going to college each year.
West Virginia State was one of only two four-year public colleges in West Virginia to significantly increase its enrollment from 2012 to 2016, with most of that growth coming in final two years, according to data from the state’s Higher Education Policy Commission. The Commission won’t report verified enrollment totals across the board until later in the year.