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Fairmont State’s new scholarship model rewards high school GPA and lowers the cost of attendance

High school students may have noticed a recent trend in the college application process. Post-secondary institutions across the country have begun to place less emphasis on standardized test scores and more on high school GPAs. In many cases, standardized tests are not required at all. 

Fairmont State is already known as a school that provides a streamlined application process as well as generous scholarships. Even so, leaders concluded that a new scholarship program would benefit students, and ultimately, the attainability rate in the state of West Virginia.

The newly announced scholarship model places a greater emphasis on high school grades, rather than standardized test scores. SAT and ACT tests will still have a place in the admissions process, but those scores will not be necessary to be eligible for a scholarship based on the new model.

“It has become clear over the past several years that standardized tests don’t always represent a student’s likelihood of being a successful college student,” Interim Vice President of Student Success Alicia Kalka said. “A pattern of sound study habits and consistently good grades in high school has become a trusted barometer in predicting a student’s outcome.”

Much of this thinking has come from a clearer picture on how college students succeed—how they make it all the way to graduation. Studies have shown that strong high school students may struggle with standardized tests, often due to the anxiety that comes with the all-or-nothing burden of a single day of testing. Conversely, students who do well on SAT or ACT tests don’t always achieve consistently high grades throughout high school, and then in college.

An alarming number of college students don’t complete their college education at all. According to the Education Data Initiative, a nonprofit that studies post-secondary indicators, more than 30 percent of undergraduates did not complete their degree programs last year. Fairmont State’s attrition rate for first-year students hovers around the national average, at about 25 percent. Nationally, of the students who weren’t able to complete their four-year degree, more than 40 percent said they left as a result of financial reasons. 

These facts, combined with the recent acknowledgement that SAT scores don’t necessarily predict a student’s likelihood for college completion, have brought about this new scholarship program. 

In 2018, the state of West Virginia established a mandate to achieve a 60 percent post-secondary graduation rate of adults in the state. The number of college-degreed residents has remained at fewer than 30 percent. 

“This program benefits any high school student who has achieved a 3.0 cumulative GPA or better,” Assistant Vice President for Student Success Tresa Weimer said. “We want to help more students not only make it to college, but complete their degree. We know this scholarship model will continue to decrease the cost of attendance, making the dream of a college degree a reality.”

Fairmont State’s new model includes five tiers for scholarships. High school seniors with a 4.0 GPA can receive as much as $3,000 (in state) to $9,000 (out of state) per year. Students with a cumulative 3.0 high school GPA can receive $500 (in state) to $1,500 (out of state). These scholarships are available for in-state, out-of-state and transfer students. 

The new program goes into effect in the 2024 academic year. Students must also meet undergraduate admission requirements when they apply, and they will still have academic requirements each year in order to receive the scholarship. 

Fairmont State’s new financial aid agenda is designed to complement other financial aid programs, including the national Pell grant and the West Virginia Promise scholarship. 

“Students who show smart study habits throughout high school are every bit as deserving as those who had good SAT/ACT scores but average grades,” Kalka said. “Our goal is to help as many students within the state and beyond to achieve a post-secondary education.”

“A university education doesn’t have to be out of reach,” Kalka continued. “At Fairmont State, we will continue to refine our admissions process and our scholarship program to make sure every student gets a fair chance to achieve their dream.”

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