I hope the number of scholarships will increase, some late applications will be processed

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – The Hope Scholarship Board voted on Tuesday to process more than 180 applications received after the May 16 deadline for the new program.

West Virginia Assistant Treasurer for Savings Programs Amy Willard told the council that most parents who applied late said they had recently learned about the program.

“Where it’s a new program, a lot of those parents have indicated they just weren’t aware,” Willard said. “I think in future years the board may want to look at it differently once the program is established.”

The board voted to process most of the requests. The state Department of Education representative on the board abstained.

The Hope Scholarship, created by the state legislature in 2012, allows families to use money from the state education system for expenses such as individual tuition or extracurricular activities; tuition and fees at participating schools; tutoring (except not by a member of the student’s family); fees for national standardized tests; fees for after-school or summer programs; educational services and therapies and more.

Students entering the school for the first time are immediately eligible for the program.

Willard reported on Tuesday that a total of 3,146 applications have now been approved and a few hundred more are still being reviewed. The final number of scholarships could reach 3,600 students. The cost of the program is currently $13.5 million. Each qualifying student will receive $4,298.60 in the first year.

Hope Board Member State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey asked Willard on Tuesday when individual county school boards would begin to see a reduction in funding due to Hope students.

Patrick Morrisey, Attorney General of West Virginia (file)

“County school board funding for the following school year was based on their enrollment for that current school year, so they would not see any reduction in their funding until the following year. Thus, during this first year, no funds would be withdrawn from them. Willard said.

Morrisey said county school boards will actually be in a stronger financial position this first year because they will have fewer students but will still be funded as if they were enrolled in a public school.

Kelly Allen, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, expressed concern in a MetroNews article earlier this month about the financial effects of the scholarship.

Kelly Allen

“The program’s eligibility is much broader than similar programs in any other state, even before it opens to all students in 2026,” Allen said. “Over time, the Hope Scholarship will become even more expensive, diverting hundreds of millions of dollars from our public education system.”

Willard also announced Tuesday that the application process for educational service providers to participate in the program will begin on June 30. She said it will also include the second phase of West Virginia non-public schools that have received links to participate in the program.

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