(a) The Governor shall designate the Higher Education Student Financial Aid Advisory Board created by section five, article one of this chapter to select the recipients of Underwood-Smith teacher scholarships who meet the eligibility criteria set forth in subsection (b) of this section.
(b) Eligibility for an Underwood-Smith Teacher Scholarship award shall be limited to students who meet the following criteria:
(1) Have graduated or are graduating from a West Virginia high school and rank in the top ten percent of their graduating class or the top ten percent statewide of those West Virginia students taking the ACT test;
(2) Have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.25 on a possible scale of four after successfully completing two years of course work at an approved institution of higher education in West Virginia;
(3) Are public school aides or paraprofessionals as defined in section eight, article four, chapter eighteen-a of this code and who have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.25 on a possible scale of four after successfully completing two years of course work at an approved institution of higher education in West Virginia; or
(4) Are graduate students at the master's degree level who have graduated or are graduating in the top ten percent of their college graduating class.
(c) In accordance with the rules of the commission, the vice chancellor for administration shall develop criteria and procedures for the selection of scholarship recipients. The selection criteria shall reflect the purposes of this article and shall specify the areas in which particular efforts will be made in the selection of scholars as set forth in section one of this article. Selection procedures and criteria also may include, but are not limited to, the grade point average of the applicant, involvement in extracurricular activities, financial need, current academic standing and an expression of interest in teaching as demonstrated by an essay written by the applicant. These criteria and procedures further may require the applicant to furnish letters of recommendation from teachers and others.
It is the intent of the Legislature that academic abilities be the primary criteria for selecting scholarship recipients. However, the qualified applicants with the highest academic abilities who intend to pursue teaching careers in areas of critical need and shortage pursuant to section one of this article shall be given priority.
(d) In developing the selection criteria and procedures to be used by the Higher Education Student Financial Aid Advisory Board, the vice chancellor for administration shall solicit the views of public and private education agencies and institutions and other interested parties. Input from interested parties shall be solicited by means of written and published selection criteria and procedures in final form for implementation and may be solicited by means of public hearings on the present and projected teacher needs of the state or any other methods the vice chancellor for administration may determine to be appropriate to gather the information.
(e) The vice chancellor for administration shall make application forms for Underwood-Smith Teacher Scholarships available to public and private high schools in the state and in other locations convenient to applicants, parents and others, and shall make an effort to attract students from low-income backgrounds, ethnic or racial minority students, students with disabilities, and women or minority students who show interest in pursuing teaching careers in mathematics and science and who are underrepresented in those fields.