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PROMISE Scholarship strained by pandemic

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Some West Virginia higher education institutions are still waiting for money related to the PROMISE Scholarship as the financial aid program continues dealing with the stress of the coronavirus pandemic.

West Virginia University, Marshall University and Bethany College have not received more than $3.5 million related to the scholarship program, which goes toward tuition and mandatory fees at West Virginia institutions.

Sarah Armstrong Tucker (File)

The PROMISE Scholarship is supported by the state’s general revenue and excess lottery revenue funds. Casinos were closed between late March 2020 and June 2020 because of the pandemic, impacting the money that would typically go into the excess lottery revenue account.

“At that point in time, we were short $5.65 million in PROMISE,” Sarah Armstrong Tucker, the chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, said Wednesday before the House of Delegates Education Committee.

To be eligible for the PROMISE Scholarship, students must have a cumulative grand point average of 3.0 and meet score requirements related to the ACT and SAT college admissions exams. Exam dates have been canceled because of the coronavirus.

Tucker noted there have been calls to dropped the requirement related to the tests, but changes are unlikely.

“I completely understand and sympathize with what is going on,” she said. “The issue with that is it will cost a whole lot of money to pay the scholarships for PROMISE recipients if we drop the ACT and SAT requirements. The state would have to invest millions and millions of dollars into that fund if we were going to be able to drop those requirements.”

Tucker told lawmakers the deadline to apply for the PROMISE Scholarship will likely be extended past March 1.