House Republicans are proposing to means-test the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant program (DCTAG), which provides grants of up to $10,000 annually to bridge the difference between in-state and out-of-state college costs. The measure, part of the 2012 budget proposal drafted by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), is intended to offset the cost of restoring the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the federally-funded voucher initiative that provides low-income District students up to $7,500 to attend private schools. The House recently passed legislation to revive the program, which was defunded by the Obama administration. It faces a more uncertain outlook in the Senate, where it is championed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), but opposed by the Democratic majority.
Ryan’s blueprint does not offer details about the means test. When Congress reauthorized DCTAG in 2008, it limited eligibility to families with taxable incomes of under $1 million a year. First proposed in 1999 by former Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Constance Morella (R-Md.) and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), DCTAG is designed to compensate for the District’s lack of a full public university system. That circumstance forced District college students to pay out-of state tuition at twice the rate of their peers in other states. It also offers smaller amounts to students enrolling in private colleges in the Washington region and historically black colleges around the nation. According a 2009 report from OSSE, which administers the $35 million program, it has helped 16,000 students attend state schools.