One of my staffers was approached early last week in the Rayburn Building's barber shop by a longtime resident of Northwest Washington. The man wanted to convey his thanks for passage of the D.C. Access Act, which will allow recent high school graduates in the District to pay in-state rates at public colleges in Maryland and Virginia by funding the difference between in- and out-of-state tuitions, up to $10,000 a year. The bill also provides tuition-assistance grants of $2,500 for students who choose to attend private colleges in the District or in the adjoining Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Furthermore, seniors at public D.C. high schools will be eligible to receive another $2,000 a year in college grants through a complementary nonprofit group called the D.C. College Access Program.

The D.C. Access Act, or H.R. 974, is the latest step in the District's rebirth. A city long plagued by an exodus of residents now can offer families an incentive to stay put -- a network of colleges and universities to attend at drastically reduced rates. I cannot think of a better, more constructive way to further Washington's recovery.

H.R. 974 represents a sincere attempt by contributors from both parties -- including but not limited to D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Reps. Connie Morella (R-Md.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Jim Moran (D-Va.), Al Wynn (D-Md.), Steve Horn (R-Calif.), Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) and Bob Ehrlich (R-Md.) -- to give Washington families the best of reasons to remain in the city and help foster its resurgence.

College-bound students in each of the 50 states have a vast network of state-supported institutions to attend. This bill helps level the playing field for D.C. residents. Without a healthy city, we cannot have a healthy region.

-- Tom Davis

a Republican, represents Virginia in the House of Representatives.