Education, Government, State Government

State lawmakers intend to allocate millions of dollars for FAFSA funding

During a special session starting today, lawmakers expect to put millions of additional dollars into higher education funding in an attempt to support West Virginia students who have been jammed up with problems with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly called FAFSA.

This will be a multi-million-dollar, one-time increase in allocation for higher education in West Virginia. A drop in West Virginia college applications has been attributed to frustrations over FAFSA. Gov. Jim Justice last month declared an emergency over the problems, streamlining West Virginia’s part of the process. “This money will be used to backfill the mess created by the federal government,” Justice said of the special session.

“Hopefully, they fix it soon, but we aren’t going to wait for them and let our colleges fail. Our students and faculty deserve stability and support, and we’re committed to providing it. This funding will ensure our students have peace of mind and our state’s institutions can serve our communities effectively.”

FAFSA has been rocked by frustrating delays and technical problems stemming from the rollout of a redesigned form intended to ask fewer questions and include more automated features.

Parents and students across the nation have reported trouble completing the application, resulting in frustrations that have discouraged many from completing the process. Many colleges, in turn, have been delayed in assessing and completing financial aid packages.

“It’s critical that the colleges get these kids in school. That’s obviously the main thing,” House Finance Chairman Vernon Criss, R-Wood, said of the money that could provide financial assurance to prospective college students.

“This is probably as critical a situation that we’ve had for the colleges and universities for a long time,” Criss said. “This is the every day stuff that the colleges need, and we’ve worked hard on trying to get kids to go to college and increase our college participation from high school graduates.

“It’s no fault of anybody’s except for the federal government for doing what they’re doing, and we’ve got to pick up and take care of our own and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Sen. Mike Oliverio, R-Monongalia, agreed with the priority of helping colleges and students with financial support.

“You don’t have to just fill out the FAFSA if you are a needy family, in need of support. Most loan programs and grant programs require you to fill it out regardless of your family’s income. So this struck all across West Virginia families of students starting college in the fall and also all those returning to college,” Oliverio said on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

“So this is a huge issue we’re trying to address. I applaud the governor for declaring a state of emergency on federal financial aid issues. I hope we as a legislature pass a resolution to continue that state of emergency.”