WV Free Tuition Bill: Is It Too Good To Be True?

The West Virginia Senate recently passed a bill that would allow for tuition grants for those wanting to achieve an associate's degree from a community college or a certificate from a technical school. The House made a few changes to the bill, including an expansion to reduce the cost of the first two years at public and non-profit four-year institutions. There are many stipulations to be eligible for free tuition including:

  • You must be a high school graduate.
  • You will have to complete and pay for a drug test every semester.
  • You have to be a West Virginia resident for at least a year before you apply and remain a West Virginia resident for at least two years after completing your education.
  • You must take at least six credit hours a semester.
  • You cannot already have a college degree.
  • You must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0.
  • You also have to complete at least eight hours of community service while earning your degree/certification.
  • You must complete the FAFSA.

“Every West Virginian should have access to education and training that will lead directly to quality employment opportunities within the state. In order for West Virginia to retain and attract business and industry, it must ensure that its workforce has such education and training,” according to the bill.

The bill also states, “According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median yearly earnings of an individual with an associate’s degree is approximately $6,604 more than an individual with only a high school diploma. Therefore, any investment by the state into a citizen obtaining such a degree would be repaid multiple times over through the citizen’s increased contributions to the economy and tax base.”

A few universities in the state are concerned that this bill will negatively affect enrollment. “Some four-year schools, such as Fairmont State University, say the bill would put them at a disadvantage by giving students incentives to choose community colleges. Fairmont State shares a campus with Pierpont Community and Technical College,” according to the Herald-Dispatch.

The House passed their version of the bill in an 85-13 vote on March 7, 2019. Now, it will return to the Senate for a review of the changes before it ultimately makes its way to the Governor.