The Washington Post

D.C. Tuition Assistance Grants are alive, for now

The D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant program is alive and well. But Washington parents could be forgiven for thinking it was not.

DCTAG provides Washingtonians grants up to $10,000 a year toward the difference in price between in-state and out-of-state tuition at public colleges across the nation. It also provides $2,500 a year toward private college tuition in the D.C. region. It is neither need- nor merit-based.

The program was conceived to help parents in Washington who, because of the quirky geography of the District, lack the plethora of state university options available in other states. In practice, some higher education advocates grumble that the grants help an inordinate number of lawyers and doctors who, frankly, don’t need the help.

When the dust cleared after the recent 11th-hour budget deal in Washington, there was talk that DCTAG might be cut or even eliminated to fund a D.C. public-school voucher program sought by Republicans. That rumored trade-off fueled some of the anger over perceived mistreatment of the District that prompted city leaders to get themselves arrested in protest the other day.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) issued a news release April 5 linking the voucher program to elimination of DC-TAG and vowed to fight it. DCTAG is a federal program that could be cut to fund vouchers in 2012-13 or beyond.

But the program is fully funded for now and through 2012, according to Kenneth Howard, who oversees the program at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.

“TAG is fine. We are still making awards for next year,” he said in an e-mail.

Howard dismissed reports (received by at least one colleague of mine) that some parents were being told otherwise by TAG employees.

“No student or parent has been told that the DCTAG Program has been terminated,” he said.

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