West Virginia's college-going rate has declined over the past five years, according to the WV Report Card. The report says 55.9 percent of high school graduates enrolled in college in the fall of 2013, compared to 61.5 percent in 2009, according to the WV Higher Education Commission.

The nationwide rate has dropped 4.2 percentage points since 2009.

In 2013, Monongalia County had the highest college-going rate at 68.1 percent with McDowell County having the lowest rate at 34.7 percent.

The Hur Herald has issued a public information request to the WV Higher Education Policy Commission to obtain trends in college going rates for Calhoun and regional counties.

During the same five-year period, the number of degrees and certificates awarded increased from 15,185 to 18,012. Nationwide, 65.9 percent of the roughly 3 million U.S. high school graduates in 2013 had enrolled in colleges by October of that year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The student success rate at West Virginia's community colleges has increased. The success rate measures the percentage of first-time freshmen, full-time and part-time, at state community colleges who, after six years, have achieved either a certificate or associate s degree or have transferred to a four-year institution.

A barrier to college education is the costs and the costs of paying off student loans.

But West Virginia high school graduates reportedly missed out on $15 million in free grants by not completing an application for federal aid last year, an analysis by higher education researchers.

While state higher education officials say more than 50 percent of seniors fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the study found that more than 7,000 of the state's high school graduates didn't complete one last year.

Even more, nearly 4,000 of those students would have been eligible to receive Pell Grants, a free award given by the federal government to help undergraduates with financial need go to college. The average amount given is about $3,800.

"Obviously, we're missing some students," said Brian Weingart, financial aid director for the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. "The majority who do go to college fill it (the FAFSA) out though."

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