Senator Jay Rockefeller today shared resources for West Virginians looking to further their education, underscoring the importance of college and career planning ahead of "College Goal Sunday," a statewide event on February 10 that provides free financial aid assistance.
"A strong education gives rise to innovation, a more competitive workforce, and a stronger economy. And it puts people on a path to reaching their dreams. Getting there isn't always easy, which is why planning is so important," Rockefeller said. "Though the fall semester seems far off, this is the time of year when high school seniors and their families, as well as people interested in finishing or starting their degrees, are thinking about their futures. Helping West Virginians realize their goal of higher education has always been important to me. That's why I have fought to make that goal more affordable."
Rockefeller highlighted the following resources and options for West Virginians looking to further their education:
Federal Grant Programs: The federal government offers grant funds for students attending colleges or career schools. Unlike loans, these grants do not have to be repaid. The Federal Pell Grant Program is a need-based grant program for use at one of 5,400 participating institutions. The government also offers grants for military service and for students who agree to teach. Click here for a fact sheet on federal student aid options or visit studentaid.ed.gov. To qualify for federal aid, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For more information about the FAFSA, click here.
College Goal Sunday: College Goal Sunday, February 10, is coordinated by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission's Division of Student Success and P-20 Initiatives. The event will have 300 volunteers at 23 locations across the state providing free assistance with completing the FAFSA. Last year, more than 1,000 FAFSA forms were completed through the statewide event. For more information, visit CFWV.com. Click here for a list of College Goal Sunday locations.
Income-Based Repayment: The Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Program caps required monthly payments on eligible federal loans based on income and family size. For more information, click here.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program: The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program encourages students to enter public service by offering loan forgiveness to public service employees. After employees have served 10 years or more in certain public service jobs, they may qualify to have the remaining balance of outstanding loans forgiven. Click here for more information about who qualifies for this program.
LearningExpress Library: LearningExpress Library (LXL) from the West Virginia Library Commission offers more than 770 free online practice tests, including the SAT and ACT, at WVInfoDepot.org. Students can access these practice tests plus tutorials and eBooks from home, school or the local library.
Financial Awareness Counseling: The U.S. Department of Education has an interactive loan counseling tool that can provide information on current loan debt and estimates for future student loan levels. Students can receive personalized feedback based on their individual loan histories. To access the tool, click here.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, student loan debt among American college students surpassed $1 trillion in 2012. Rockefeller has firmly supported protections for students and affordable access to higher education. Throughout his Senate career, Rockefeller has:
Cosponsored legislation to protect students from bankruptcy and high loan interest rates. This Congress Rockefeller cosponsored the Fairness for Struggling Students Act and the Know Before You Owe Act. The Fairness for Struggling Students Act would restore available bankruptcy relief for private student loans. Know Before You Owe would require private lenders and institutions to make borrowers aware of financing options before taking on unnecessary debt.
Fought to make college more affordable. Rockefeller has worked to expand federal Pell Grant funding, and supported loan consolidation programs and income-based loan repayments that make student loans more manageable.
Voted to extend the American Opportunity Tax Credit. Rockefeller voted for the fiscal cliff deal, which extends for five years the American Opportunity Tax Credit. This tax credit can be used to pay for textbooks and other fixed costs associated with attending college in addition to tuition. In 2011, West Virginians received a total of $64 million.
Helped keep student loan interest rates low. In May 2012, Rockefeller voted to prevent interest rates from doubling from 3.4 to 6.8 percent.
Pushed for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program for students entering public service. Starting in 2017, students who commit to teaching or other public service jobs for at least 10 years will be eligible for forgiveness of their remaining loan balance.
Supported efforts to improve STEM education. Rockefeller introduced the Math and Science Partnership Act, which created the Noyce Scholarship Program to provide scholarships for math and science students who commit to teaching.