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Governor declares state of emergency for West Virginia's higher education system


The governor of West Virginia, Jim Justice, has declared a state of emergency for the higher education system. That's because of all the problems with the new free application for federal student aid or FAFSA. Chris Schulz with member Station WVPB has this report.

CHRIS SCHULZ, BYLINE: Debra Asbury is the school counselor at Spring Valley High School in Wayne County, W. Va. She says the new simplified FAFSA is much easier to fill out, but updating the form has been a struggle due to technical glitches.

DEBRA ASBURY: Even once they completed their FASFA and they needed to make corrections, it was still put on hold for a couple more weeks. They're waiting to get back in, and so the kids were getting a little frantic because of deadlines coming up.

SCHULZ: Asbury believes in the long run, the changes will be for the better. But West Virginia Governor Jim Justice says the delays have kept the state from moving forward with its student aid, which relies on FAFSA data.


JIM JUSTICE: The way around this is for the governor to declare a state of emergency, a state of emergency in education that we can bypass this FAFSA stuff, and we can at least get on to getting our kids the state funding.

SCHULZ: The declaration means students can now apply for state aid without their new FAFSA package. Justice said high school FAFSA completion rates are currently down nearly 40% statewide. He encouraged students to still apply for federal aid.


JUSTICE: We've got to still get you through this FAFSA requirement for you to get fed dollars. But to get you state dollars, this state of emergency absolutely ought to be able to move forward.

SCHULZ: The U.S. Department of Education said this week it had processed all FAFSA forms with IRS data issues. Officials say institutions should now be able to package financial aid offers. Many universities have already delayed the traditional May 1 decision deadline to account for the FAFSA delays.

For NPR News, I'm Chris Schulz in Morgantown, W. Va. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Chris Schulz