High school seniors who recently graduated will now only have to get a 1080 combined score on the SAT or a 21 composite ACT score to earn the $4,750-per-year Promise Scholarship.
Also, these seniors won’t have to achieve these scores in a single day. Students will be able to “superscore,” meaning they can combine their highest score on a subject from one test date with their highest score on another subject from a different date.
Superscoring will also be available for seniors graduating next school year.
Additionally, students will now have until the end of October, rather than August, to earn qualifying scores to start receiving Promise money this fall in college.
Students will still have to score above certain thresholds on the individual subjects that comprise the SAT or ACT to earn the Promise, but these thresholds have also been lowered.
On the SAT, students need at least a 510 in the Evidenced-Based Reading and Writing section, down from 530, and a 510 in the Math section, down from 520. The combined score requirement of 1080 is down from 1100.
For the ACT, students need at least a 19 each in English, Reading, Math and Science, down from 20 in each. The composite score requirement of 21 is down from 22.
In addition, college students who have already begun receiving the Promise Scholarship, or the separate state Higher Education Grant for economically disadvantaged students, won’t have to worry about a low college grade point average this past academic year kicking them off the scholarship next academic year.
The GPA requirement for high schoolers to earn the Promise initially remains. And the deadline to apply for the Promise Scholarship is still July 1.
The board of the Higher Education Policy Commission, the statewide four-year college oversight and policy agency, approved these Promise requirement reductions Friday.
Board members made this requirement reduction vote, with no dissent, after the Commission’s staff told them the number of students who have been awarded the Promise Scholarship so far was still significantly down amid the pandemic.
Brian Weingart, the agency’s senior director of financial aid, said that number was currently 2,500, down from the usual 3,200 at this time of year. He said the votes Friday will, right off the bat, increase the number of awarded students by 500, bringing it up to 3,000.
“We’ll still be behind,” said higher education Chancellor Sarah Tucker. “These students have struggled so much this year and they have tried so hard.”
“I, as the chancellor, as your chancellor, cannot recommend sitting on millions of dollars that should be given to students to help them forward their education,” she said. “If we have the opportunity to make these changes to help hundreds of students, then I really believe that we ought to do it.”
Weingart said unused Promise Scholarship funds would carry over to next academic year, unless the state Legislature decides to use that money for something else.
He said the pandemic had disrupted students’ access to SAT and ACT prep, tutors and the tests themselves. He said the agency receives 17,000-18,000 scores in a normal year, but “we received about half of those for this year, where tests have been canceled and students have not been able to take those.”
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, students in the high school graduating Classes of 2020 and 2021 can go to 13 locations across the state to learn more about financial aid and get help completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The FAFSA is the gateway application usually required to receive a bevy of state and federal money for college, including the Promise Scholarship, federal Pell Grants for low-income students, and the state’s free community college tuition program, called West Virginia Invests. Filling out the FAFSA at this “College Bound Saturday” event also enters you in a drawing to win a free computer.
The locations include West Virginia State University in Institute, Marshall University’s Huntington campus and West Virginia University’s Morgantown campus. You can find information on what you need to bring to these sites at cfwvconnect.com/college-bound-saturday and you can register there, though registration isn’t required.
Also, students can take the ACT for free at several colleges statewide throughout the summer. But this particular type of ACT can only be used to get into the college where you take it, and/or to earn the Promise Scholarship, which can be used at any West Virginia public college. For dates, locations and other information, visit wvhepc.edu/act-on-campus-exams.