After FAFSA bungling by Feds, West Virginia passes $80 million financial aid package

14 June 2024- Gov. 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, Gov. Justice said that this funding, which he requested, will go a long way toward helping students continue their education amid ongoing challenges related to the federal government’s rollout of the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

“This money will help our students stay on track for their futures despite the mess created by the federal government,” Gov. Justice said. “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 serve our communities effectively.”

Through this legislation, $40 million will go to the state’s needs-based Higher Education Grant Program (HEGP), allowing the maximum award amount for eligible students to double—from $3,400 to $6,800 — in the 2024-25 academic year. 

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

In addition, $32 million will support the operations of West Virginia’s public colleges and universities.

“I thank Gov. Justice and the Legislature for their strong leadership in allowing students to access these funds,” Sarah Armstrong Tucker, West Virginia’s Chancellor of Higher Education, said. “Thanks to them, students who qualify for HEGP will have access to up to double the normal amount for the upcoming academic year. This is in addition to a newly created grant program that will allow that support to reach even further. This is a game changer for our students in an otherwise challenging year.”

The FAFSA is the key to unlocking financial aid for college, as it determines a student’s financial need. The federal government unveiled a new FAFSA at the beginning of this year, but the move to the new form has been a significant challenge for students and families across West Virginia and the nation. That’s why, in April, Gov. 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 by September 1, 2024, will receive an award of up to $5,500 for the 2024-25 academic year.

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

If a student doesn’t have a previous FAFSA on file but is eligible for programs – such as TANF and SNAP – through the West Virginia Department of Human Services (DoHS) or West Virginia Department of Health (DH), they can show their eligibility letter to their higher education institution’s financial aid office to receive 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 be part of this day with Gov. Justice,” Senate President Blair said. “We had a real emergency facing our state, and thousands of our young people were at risk of seeing their dreams of attending college disappear because of the federal government’s failure to come through on their promises. In West Virginia, we keep our promises. This funding will help our students and our higher education institutions be prepared for the upcoming academic year, and it will take that financial worry off the table.”

“Gov. Justice gave us a solid vehicle to help correct the Biden Administration’s failure to fix the mess it created with FAFSA forms that left thousands of students in West Virginia without a clear path for their higher education plans this fall,” Speaker Hanshaw said. “It was imperative these funds be made available right now because our higher education institutions are making financial aid awards for the fall semester right now. We expect to be repaid substantially when the federal government corrects its failed system, but I’m pleased Gov. Justice and a majority of members of the Legislature were not willing to let West Virginia’s students and our institutions of higher education suffer because of the federal government’s failure here.”

“These funds will help more West Virginians go to college by enhancing state grants and giving institutions like West Virginia University the ability to provide more resources to students, Gordon Gee, President of West Virginia University, said. “We know we have many students and families waiting for their aid packages to make their final decisions. That is 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 extend my gratitude to Chancellor Tucker for working with West Virginia University and other universities and colleges in the state to tackle this challenge.”

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