CHARLESTON, WV (LOOTPRESS) – State Treasurer Riley Moore today strongly encouraged West Virginia students and parents to ‘focus on the future’ during the month of February and remain diligent in planning for a college or vocational education.
That includes making sure students fill out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), apply for the PROMISE Scholarship and participate in college savings programs offered through the State Treasurer’s Office.
“While we’re currently navigating unprecedented times, it’s important to remember this pandemic will not last forever – we will return to normal,” Treasurer Moore said. “When we get there, it will be critical to have prepared for the future, and that includes preparing for a college or vocational education. That’s why I’m encouraging parents, students and teachers to devote the rest of February to focus on our future, and make sure our children are ready for the years ahead.
“We need to remain focused on this because our children are going to have to compete in a global economy,” Treasurer Moore said. “Countries like China would love nothing more than to see our children fall behind as we compete globally and our economies continue to decouple. We can’t allow this.”
Treasurer Moore encouraged not only high school students and their parents, but children in all grades and their parents to get involved in various programs available to save for college and vocational education.
For K-5: SMART529 ‘When I Grow Up’ Essay Contest
For kindergarten through fifth grade students, the State Treasurer’s Office recently launched the 2021 edition of the SMART529 ‘When I Grow Up’ student and teacher essay contest. The annual essay contest gives students around the state the chance to win up to $5,000 in SMART529 savings for higher education.
“This essay contest is a great opportunity for parents to sit down with their children and talk about their dreams for what they want to be when they grow up, and it could result in winning some much-needed money for school,” Treasurer Moore said. “It can also give you an opportunity to discuss what life will be like once we’re beyond this pandemic, which can give everyone a chance to think about the hope of brighter days ahead.”
Students should have started receiving information on the program from their schools. Entries will be judged among five regions in three age groups (K-1, 2-3, 4-5), making for a total of 15 regional winners. The 15 winners will be awarded $500 invested into SMART529 college savings accounts. Out of the regional winners, one grand prize winner will be randomly selected to receive a total of $5,000 in SMART529 scholarship money. Each winner’s school will also receive a $500 cash award.
Teachers of grades K-5 also have the opportunity to compete in the teacher portion of the essay contest. This year’s winning teacher will receive a $2,500 cash prize.
Information on the essay contest and SMART529 savings plan can be found at www.SMART529.com.
For High School Seniors: FAFSA, PROMISE & WV Invests
Treasurer Moore also urged current high school seniors to take advantage of the various state and federal scholarship, grant and financial aid programs that are available – specifically the PROMISE Scholarship, which has an application deadline of March 1.
According to current data from the state Higher Education Policy Commission, PROMISE Scholarship applications are down nearly 50 percent since last year. As of Feb. 3, the state had received 4,510 applications, down from the 8,866 applications that had been received by the same day last year.
Seniors also need to complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible.
The FAFSA application is a first step for many financial aid programs, including West Virginia’s needs-based Higher Education Grants. Students will need to turn in FAFSA forms by March 1 if they intend to also apply for the PROMISE Scholarship, or byApril 15 in order to qualify for the needs-based grants.
According to the Higher Education Policy Commission, as of Feb. 3 FAFSA applications from West Virginia students were down nearly 22 percent compared to last year.
“West Virginia proudly ranks in the top 10 among states for providing financial aid, awarding more than $104 million to students each year,” Treasurer Moore said. “But if students aren’t applying for these programs, that money will be left on the table – we can’t let this happen.”
The state also offers a wide variety of scholarships and grants for certain specific fields, such as the Engineering, Science and Technology Scholarship and Nursing Scholarship Program. More information on those degree-specific programs can be found at www.cfwv.com.
“I strongly urge our high school seniors and their parents to spend the next few weeks looking over the applications for scholarships, grants and financial aid,” Treasurer Moore said. “The state has many programs, like the PROMISE Scholarship, that can provide critical assistance to cover college education costs, and students and their parents need that help now more than ever. I encourage everyone to work diligently over the coming weeks to fill out as many applications for aid as possible.”
Community & Technical College Education
For those students not pursuing a four-year college degree, the state also offers the ‘West Virginia Invests’ program that covers the costs of basic tuition and eligible fees for certificate or associate degree programs.
While the application period for this program is open year-round, individuals do need to complete a FAFSA form as part of the process. Information about the West Virginia Invests program can be found at www.wvinvests.org.
Treasurer Moore is also encouraging the state Legislature to pass his Jumpstart Savings Plan, which would provide individuals who are preparing to enter a vocational trade a tax-free savings account that could be used to cover the startup costs of entering the workforce, including paying for the equipment, certifications and licenses needed for entering certain trades.