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Despite disadvantages, many students complete study at WVU-P

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Although West Virginia University-Parkersburg has a high percentage of students receiving Pell grants, the school has the third-highest four-year completion rate in West Virginia.

The College Completion website, managed by the Chronicle of Higher Education, released the 2010 data earlier this week. WVU-P is the only institution in the study that has open enrollment, thanks to its status as a community and technical college.

According to the data, 21 percent of WVU-P students complete their courses of study. Marshall University (23.8 percent) and West Virginia University (33.3 percent) were the only two institutions to have higher completion rates. About 58.3 percent of WVU-P students use Pell grants, which provide need-based grants to low-income undergraduate and certain post-baccalaureate students. More than 50 percent of WVU-P students qualify as low-income, but the school is still competitive with much larger schools across the state.

"We attribute our success for four-year completion to our flexible programs and classes along with our free support services, which enable students to obtain a quality education at an affordable rate," said Marie Foster Gnage, president of WVU-P. "We are still making strides in regard to retention and completion, and I only expect our completion rate to climb."

Those support services include free tutoring, counseling, advising and health and wellness programs.

For information or to see how West Virginia institutions rank, visit http://collegecompletion.chronicle.com/.