Faced with further college entrance testing postponements, West Virginia will accept SAT and ACT scores through Oct. 31 from students who want the $4,750-per-year Promise Scholarship for next academic year.
That means students may have already decided where — or whether — to attend college, and may already be taking classes on campus, by the time they’re deemed eligible or ineligible for the signature state scholarship.
The state Higher Education Policy Commission delayed the due date for those scores last month, and Friday’s decision pushes the deadline back further.
College Board announced this week that the next testing date for the SAT, which it provides, would be pushed back from June until at least August. ACT still has a test set for June 13, with a May 8 deadline for students to register.
A state Department of Education spokeswoman said College Board is still working on providing a free SAT to high school seniors this fall.
The Higher Education Policy Commission’s board, which met Friday, also OK’d a possible path for students to take SATs and ACTs earlier through “residual” SATs and ACTs possibly administered by local colleges. Brian Weingart, the commission’s senior director for financial aid, said details are still being worked out.
The agency hasn’t gone further by completely eliminating the SAT or ACT requirement to qualify for the scholarship. Students have to get at least an 1100 on the SAT, with at least 520 in math and 530 in the evidence-based reading and writing section, or they need a 22 composite ACT score, with at least a 20 in the subjects of English, reading, math and science.
Atop this, students must get a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, or whatever is considered a B, in both core courses (generally English, social studies, science and math) and overall courses required to graduate high school. The policy commission previously waived the GPA requirement for college students to renew the scholarship, but hasn’t waived it for high schoolers seeking to earn it for the first time.
The Promise provides students who go to in-state colleges either $4,750 or all their tuition, if it’s less than $4,750.
The current average annual tuition for undergraduate West Virginians at the state’s public four-year schools is $7,690, so Promise pays about 60% of that. West Virginia University’s Morgantown campus, the most expensive among in-state colleges, charges $8,980.
Tuition figures for next academic year — when it’s unclear whether colleges will still be doing online-only instruction — aren’t yet available.
“It’s a merit-based scholarship so that’s just one of the requirements in order to demonstrate some type of merit,” Weingart said of the commission’s staff not recommending that their board drop the requirement.
But Jessica Tice, spokeswoman for the commission, also said that “the financial considerations are a concern.” She said removing the college entrance exam requirement could require the commission to give out millions of dollars more in Promise Scholarships for next academic year.
“I think in the coming days or weeks, if it looks like the testing pieces are not going to be as robust as we would like them to be, we can run those numbers,” Tice said regarding what removing the requirement would cost.
Weingart said the state Legislature has provided about $47.5 million annually for the scholarship since the 2011-12 academic year and, on average over roughly the same time, the agency has given out $46.8 million annually to students.
Tice said the difference between the annual legislative appropriation and the average amount given out is spent on administering the program.
The agency also hasn’t yet allowed “superscoring,” something that could help students who have already taken a college entrance exam but haven’t gotten a high-enough score on any single test date.
Superscoring is when you’re allowed to combine your highest score on one subject with your highest score on another subject, despite those scores coming from different tests on different days, in order to create one, qualifying score.
Matt Turner, executive vice chancellor for administration for the commission, said “that could be one of the things we look at, but right now that’s not what we’re intending to do. Things could change a lot in the next few weeks.”