Noting gradual enrollment declines, WV’s higher education chancellor encourages high school students to stay on track for college

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia’s Higher Education Policy Commission today released fall 2020 enrollment data for the state’s public four-year colleges and universities. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, enrollment declines were moderate at most campuses – with an overall drop of 2.8 percent from fall 2019 to fall 2020, excluding dual credit high school students. The majority of enrollment declines were among dual-enrollment, non-resident and international students.

“We had a lot of uncertainties going into this fall semester. Working closely together, our college and university presidents made the decision to bring students back to campus, but in the safest possible way,” said Sarah Armstrong Tucker, West Virginia’s Chancellor for Higher Education. “While we saw some enrollment declines, I am encouraged by the fact that so many in-state students are continuing their education. Now, we have to start looking further ahead to help more West Virginians do the same in the coming years.”  

First-time freshmen headcount enrollment at West Virginia’s baccalaureate institutions dropped for the fifth year in a row, down 5.4 percent from fall 2019 to fall 2020. Chancellor Tucker noted that the state’s four-year enrollment numbers mirror national trends and are influenced by the state’s declining population. She also encouraged high school students to stay on track for college, especially in today’s environment.

“We know high school students are grappling every day with uncertainties around attending school in person, keeping up good grades in a virtual environment, and staying healthy and safe,” Chancellor Tucker said. “This is a lot to deal with, but in spite of it all we have to encourage our young people to not lose sight of their futures. Now is the time to complete the FAFSA, fill out the Promise Scholarship application, and plan for what’s next. We need our students to succeed. Our future, in so many ways, depends on them.” 

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. To help students learn about the financial aid opportunities available to them, the Commission is offering a series of financial aid webinars, as well as extended office hours for students and families with questions about filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – which is the first critical step to accessing financial aid for college.

The FAFSA form is free and available through the U.S. Department of Education at

The Promise Scholarship application is available at

For assistance, students and families are encouraged to call the Commission’s financial aid hotline at 877-987-7664.

Click HERE for the full public four-year enrollment report.