Delaware Governor Jack Markell announced that state college application fees will be waived for in-state students during College Application Month, which runs through November 21.
Delaware Tech and Wilmington University have participated in the program for the past two years. They will be joined this year by the University of Delaware and Delaware State University.
"I applaud our universities for working to make their admissions process as accessible and encouraging to our students as possible," Markell said in a statement. "With good jobs increasingly requiring education or training beyond high school, addressing obstacles to a college application is vital."
The state's other two colleges, Wesley College and Goldey-Beacom College, do not charge an application fee, which means that high school seniors need not pay an application fee to apply to college.
Every high school in the state is participating in College Application Month this year, allowing students to apply during the school day. The program started in 2012 with a pilot program that involved two schools. The program included 20 schools last year.
The program is a part of the American College Application Campaign. Initiated by the American Council on Education, the nationwide program was created as a way to increase the number of low-income and first generation students who apply to college and other higher education institutes. Last year, 39 states participated. This year, that number has risen to include all 50 states.
State officials say the application fees sometimes prohibit low-income students from applying to college, even when they are high-performing students.
All seniors participate in the program, not only those from the target demographics. Councilors are available to help students apply to college, trade schools, internship programs, and gain information pertaining to the military.
Time is set aside to allow seniors to visit the computer lab and fill out college applications. Community volunteers will be on hand throughout the state to help students fill out the applications, as part of a partnership between the state Department of Education and the Institute for Public Administration at the University of Delaware.
Last year, the 20 participating schools hosted a total of 221 volunteers, who filled up 400 time slots, most of them two-hour blocks. This year, the 32 schools have a total of 617 volunteer slots filled.
"If you believe it takes a village to raise a child, why not go out and support them, and become part of an extended support system," says Fran Fletcher, who works with Sherretz and is now volunteering in the program for her third year.
Representatives from many of Delaware's higher education institutions will also be available at high schools to answer questions students may have about their schools.
The program offers the use of a common application form, which students fill out once with their personal and academic information and can then be used to apply to hundreds of colleges, which "has helped streamline the process" said Amy Pelligrini, a counselor at Hodgson Vocational-Technical High School in Glasgow. Essays can be uploaded from flash drives and easily attached to the completed applications. Because the process has been computerized, it is easier for counsellors to keep track of where students have applied, and whether or not recommendations and transcripts have been sent.
Last year, 2,749 students sent out 3,236 applications during College Application Month, with 70% of those applications going to colleges in the state. Of those students, 744 were the first in their families to apply to college, and 140 reported they would not have applied otherwise.