The number of first time Promise Scholarship recipients is at the lowest level in four years, according to data from the state Higher Education Policy Commission.
There were 3,104 new Promise scholars attending West Virginia colleges and universities this fall, about 200 fewer than last year. That brings the total number to 9,769, about 50 fewer than last year.
There are a number of reasons, Commission Chancellor Paul Hill said in an emailed statement.
"Those factors include, but are not limited to: the total number of high school seniors; high school graduation rates; academic preparedness; college-going rates; and college choice," Hill said in the statement.
The Promise is awarded to high-achieving high school students. A student must earn at least a 3.0 grade point average on a 4.0 scale and score above a 22 on the ACT, without scoring below 20 on any of its components.
The student also must live in West Virginia and plan to attend an in-state institute of higher education. Students must continue to meet grade and credit-hour requirements at the college level to keep receiving the award.
West Virginia University continues to enroll the most Promise scholars.
However, the 4,296 scholars at WVU this fall are about 100 fewer than last year. Marshall University saw the largest increase in Promise scholars among four-year public institutions, jumping from 1,646 recipients last year to 1,779 students this fall.
The number of Promise scholars decreased most at four-year private, nonprofit schools.
With its number dropping from 52 to five, the soon-to-be-closed Mountain State University accounted for a large chunk of that decline. The University of Charleston, which is tentatively scheduled to take over Mountain State operations in Beckley and Martinsburg, also saw a decline, as did Wheeling Jesuit University.
The number at any given institution can fluctuate in the course of the year as schools update enrollment information.
Of the 11,433 students who applied for the award this year, 3,689 met the scholarship requirements. In his statement Hill pointed out that the numbers of students qualifying for Promise and retaining the scholarship have remained relatively stable over the last five years.