(08/09/2006)
West Virginia is making efforts to curb PROMISE scholarship costs, meaning that students applying for the merit-based program next year will have to meet higher standards to get money for college tuition and fees.

PROMISE Executive Director Lisa DeFrank-Cole says increasing the standards is expected to save $800,000 and reduce the number of eligible students by between 200 and 250.

Students now qualify if they have a 3.0 grade point average in high school and earn a composite score of 21 on the ACT college entrance exam, or a combined score of one thousand on the SAT.

The new standard increases the ACT composite score to 22 and the SAT combination score in reading and math to 1,020.

The scholarship cost the state nearly $39 million dollars this year.

This year, five counties - Gilmer, Marshall, Grant, Summers and Pocahontas - lead the state with the highest percentages of rejected Promise scholars.

Gilmer County had the highest percentage of Promise applicants rejected this year - 33.3 percent.

Out of 51 scholarship applicants, 17 didn't make the cut because of low ACT or SAT scores. The average ACT composite score of those rejected was 19.1. The average GPA was 3.18.

Promise applicants were rejected - because they couldn't earn the required ACT or SAT scores, but had a high enough GPA - Boone, Gilmer, Lewis, McDowell, Mingo and Monroe counties.

In a 2003 Daily Mail report, Promise applicants were rejected because they couldn't earn the required ACT or SAT scores, but had a high enough GPA. Among the counties found in that group: Boone, Gilmer, Lewis, McDowell, Mingo and Monroe.

The controversial report said rejected Promise applicants had a GPA of 3.2 or higher and ACT scores of 19 and lower, according to Promise data.

Promise officials chalked it up to students taking easy classes just to raise their GPAs, teachers giving inflated grades and students simply not testing well.

Lisa DeFrank-Cole, Promise executive director, says the application process has changed since then.

"We've had thousands more students apply this year than in years past, since they can apply electronically. In the past, it was pretty cumbersome for a counselor to write everything in," she said. "Of course, since more students apply more easily, that generates more denials."

Many students with grade point averages high enough to be eligible for PROMISE have been denied because the actual ACT and SAT scores did not meet standards.

Out of 9,284 total applicants this year, 1,227 (13 percent were denied), but there is a rather wide disparity among counties.

PROMISE APPLICANTS: Regional Counties:

CALHOUN - 47 applicants, 9 rejected.

WIRT - 41 applicants, 3 rejected

ROANE - 112 applicants, 18 rejected

BRAXTON - 104 applicants,12 rejected

CLAY - 61 applicants, 6 rejected

RITCHIE - 62 applicants, 10 rejected

The class of 2007 will be the first group of graduating seniors affected by the new standards.


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