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Financial Aid: Talk to students about their options

Earlier this month, West Virginia’s Higher Education Policy Commission and Community and Technical College System announced a rebranding of two websites designed to help students understand all the funding options and resources available to them as they start to explore next steps after high school graduation. At CollegeforWV.com, students and their families can find a wealth of information that might help them make better decisions about going on to college, though the focus is on the more than $100 million in state-sponsored financial aid that is available.

“Thanks to our state leaders, we have such a strong and diverse assortment of scholarships and grants for West Virginians that make earning a degree or credential incredibly affordable in the Mountain State,” said Sarah Armstrong Tucker, chancellor for higher education. “Through ‘College for West Virginia,’ we hope to say much more clearly to West Virginians that no matter your background, no matter your age, no matter your location or situation, there is a path to college for you — right here at home.”

It is the “right here at home,” that might be tricky for some students who believe they are ready to fly somewhere farther away from the communities in which they were raised. But families can have more influence than they might imagine in that regard. There is a reason, after all, that THEY stayed, made careers and raised families here.

Another discussion should be whether students’ career dreams might be better served by trade schools, technical programs and apprenticeships. Fulfilling, family-supporting jobs can be found without a four-year degree; and the state has resources for pursuing those career options, too.

In any case, the end of students’ high school years is closer than it might seem while we await the changing of the leaves. Where ever the conversation may lead, it’s time to start talking, folks.

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