CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia’s Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) and Community and Technical College System (CTCS) today released fall 2019 enrollment data for the state’s public two- and four-year postsecondary education institutions. Notably, enrollment of first-time freshmen in the state’s nine community and technical colleges increased 9.9 percent from fall 2018 to fall 2019, meaning more than 3,000 freshmen entered those campuses this semester.
“As we were working to pass the free community college bill during the 2019 legislative session, our hope and expectation was that there would be several students who wouldn’t have otherwise gone on to college and now believe they can. I believe we’re seeing that come to life through these positive new enrollment trends,” said Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker, CTCS Chancellor and interim HEPC Chancellor. “Since WV Invests is a last-dollar-in program, a number of students applied for the grant and didn’t need it because they were covered by other financial aid. This was our goal – to let students know that a college education in West Virginia is within their reach.”
First-time freshmen headcount enrollment at West Virginia’s baccalaureate institutions dropped for the fourth year in a row, down 1.9 percent from fall 2018 to fall 2019. More than 10,300 freshmen enrolled in four-year schools this fall, a slight drop of approximately 200 first-year freshmen from the year before. Chancellor Tucker noted that West Virginia’s four-year enrollment numbers mirror national trends, and that they are influenced by the state’s declining population, fewer high school graduates, and a decrease in the state’s college-going rate.
“Our four-year institutions are doing a great job of capturing high school students for dual enrollment courses before they graduate, but we have to increase the number of high school graduates continuing on to college,” Chancellor Tucker said. “Our college-going rate declined two percentage points from 2017 to 2018, and that’s the second year in a row we’ve seen a decrease. To encourage more of our students to pursue postsecondary education, we’ve set a goal that 70 percent of high school seniors will complete a FAFSA by April 15, 2020. The FAFSA is the key to unlocking higher education opportunities for our students, and it is essential as we work to get more students pursuing the credentials they need to be successful.”
West Virginia ranks in the top 10 states in providing financial aid, with the state higher education system administering more than $104 million in student aid each year. The system also provides statewide seminars and training to help families complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and understand how to apply for grants and scholarships.
The state’s FAFSA completion outreach campaign supports West Virginia’s Climb initiative, which sets a goal to have 60 percent of the state’s workforce armed with a formal education credential beyond high school by 2030 – nearly doubling the percentage of working-age West Virginians with a postsecondary credential over the next 10 years.
The FAFSA form is free and available online through the U.S. Department of Education at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa. For financial aid assistance, students and families are encouraged to call the state financial aid hotline at 1-888-825-5707.
Both the HEPC and CTCS 2019 enrollment reports can be found online at http://www.wvhepc.edu/resources/data-and-publication-center/ under “Miscellaneous Reports.”