However, in a letter dated Sept. 4 from Hill to the state Department of Revenue, he said the state might have to consider changing the qualifications of the Promise scholarship as a result of the budget cuts. In the letter, he states legislators might need to consider a code change that would make only students who plan to attend public, in-state colleges or universities eligible.
This change was one of several, including "significant tuition increases," that Hill's letter listed could come as a direct result of budget cuts, according to Daily Mail records.
The Promise is an award for West Virginia high school students who perform well academically. There is $47.5 million allocated to the program this year: $29 million from revenue earned through video gambling (or "grey machines") and $18.5 million from general revenue.
Budget requests are presented by state agencies to the governor, and were due to the state Budget Office by Sept. 4. After a legislative committee meeting Monday, Hill said the commission had decided to "exempt it ourselves."
That decision was not included in the initial written budget submission, but Hill recommended the change earlier this month during discussions with officials from the state budget office, a spokesperson said late Monday in an email.
The budgeting process is far from over.
Tomblin isn't expected to present his budget to the Legislature until February. After the committee meeting Monday, Hill said exempting financial aid is the latest step in the process, but each line item in the commission's budget could change as negotiations continue.
Although the exemption could mean more financial strain for other commission entities, Hill said it shows the commission's dedication to students.
"The commission's recommendation makes direct student support the first and foremost priority of the state's higher education system," Hill said in the statement.