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Submitted photo Governor Jim Justice signed legislation providing more than $80 million for West Virginia students and institutions of higher education.

CHARLESTON — Governor Jim Justice today signed SB 1007, which allocates more than $80 million to the state’s higher education system to strengthen West Virginia’s financial aid programs this year and support colleges and universities.

Joined by recent high school graduates and presidents of several colleges and universities, Governor Justice said this funding, which he requested, will go a long way in helping students continue their education amid ongoing deployment challenges. by the federal government of the new free program. Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

“This money will help our students stay on track for their futures despite the mess the federal government has created. » » said Governor Justice. “Our students and higher education institutions deserve stability and support, and we are committed to providing it. This funding will ensure our students have peace of mind and our state’s institutions can effectively serve our communities.

Through this legislation, $40 million will flow to the state’s Needs-Based Higher Education Grant Program (HEGP), doubling the maximum grant amount for eligible students – from 3 $400 to $6,800 – during the 2024-2025 academic year.

Building on this support, $11.2 million will go toward a new Emergency College Access Grant, which will provide up to $2,000 to eligible students.

Additionally, $32 million will support the operation of West Virginia’s public colleges and universities.

“I thank Governor Justice and the Legislature for their strong leadership in providing students with access to these funds,” West Virginia Higher Education Chancellor Sarah Armstrong Tucker said. “Thanks to them, eligible HEGP students will have access to up to double the normal amount for the coming academic year. This is in addition to a newly created grant program that will allow this support to go even further. This is a game changer for our students in an otherwise difficult year.

The FAFSA is the key to unlocking financial aid for college because it determines a student’s financial need. The federal government unveiled a new FAFSA earlier this year, but transitioning to the new form posed a significant challenge for students and families in West Virginia and across the country. That’s why, in April, Governor Justice declared a state of emergency to temporarily suspend the requirement for students to complete the FAFSA to qualify for the state’s largest financial aid programs .

With his proclamation, students who qualify and apply for the Promise Scholarship before September 1, 2024 will receive a scholarship of up to $5,500 for the 2024-2025 academic year.

If a student completed last year’s FAFSA (2023-24) and qualifies for HEGP, they will receive a grant of up to $6,800 for the upcoming academic year.

If a student does not have a prior FAFSA on file but is eligible for programs – such as TANF and SNAP – through the West Virginia Department of Human Services (DoHS) or the Virginia Department of Health -Western (DH), he can show his eligibility. letter to the financial aid office of their higher education establishment to benefit from the HEGP.

If a student or their family needs a replacement DoHS or DH eligibility letter, they can call 877-716-1212 to request a new one.

“On behalf of the Senate, we are proud to participate in this day with Governor Justice,” » declared Senate President Blair. “Our state was facing a real emergency and thousands of our young people were at risk of seeing their dreams of going to college disappear because of the federal government’s failure to keep its promises. In West Virginia, we keep our promises. This funding will help our students and higher education institutions prepare for the upcoming academic year, and eliminate this financial worry.

” Governor. “ » said President Hanshaw. “It was imperative that these funds be made available now as our institutions of higher education are currently awarding financial aid for the fall semester. We expect to be reimbursed considerably when the federal government fixes its broken system, but I’m happy. Governor Justice and a majority of the Legislature were not willing to let West Virginia students and our institutions of higher education suffer at the hands of the federal government. the failure of government here.

“These funds will help more West Virginians go to college by improving state grants and giving institutions like West Virginia University the ability to provide more resources to students,” Gordon said Gee, president of West Virginia University. “We know that many students and families are waiting for their aid to make their final decision. That’s why the governor’s decision to help our students is so important, and I want to thank him for his leadership and support of higher education. I also want to thank the Legislature for moving quickly to pass these bills and send them to the governor’s desk, and I express my gratitude to Chancellor Tucker for working with West Virginia University and other universities and colleges across the state to meet this challenge.

“We appreciate Governor Jim Justice, Chancellor Sarah Tucker and the West Virginia Legislature for opening the doors to higher education and providing our institutions with the flexibility and tools needed to enable students to pursue their dreams “, Brad D. Smith, president of Marshall University, said. “Their swift and thoughtful action will foster a future rich in knowledge, innovation and opportunity for all of West Virginia.” »

“The BridgeValley Community and Technical College team is excited to be able to serve more students with this funding” Casey Sacks, president of BridgeValley Community and Technical College, said. “We know the FAFSA has been a challenge for many families this year, and it shows strong leadership in our state to see a bill introduced in a special session that will support so many of our students.”

“Our students face real barriers to earning degrees and accessing careers,” said Josh Baker, president of Mountwest Community and Technical College.

“The importance of this quick and decisive action taken by Gov. Justice and our state Legislature to address the 2024 FAFSA crisis cannot be understated,” said Ericke Cage, Chairman. from West Virginia State University. “This targeted funding will ensure our students have the financial support needed to pursue their college education and help West Virginia colleges and universities better plan for the 2024-2025 academic year.

“Concord University expresses its gratitude to the members of the West Virginia Legislature, Governor Justice, and Chancellor Sarah Tucker for their efforts, decisions, and support of all Virginia institutions of higher education -Western during this difficult time. » Concord University President Kendra Boggess said.

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