- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2018

City officials and parents say they will fight President Trump’s plan to cut federal funding for a D.C. program that helps residents attend college anywhere in the nation.

The D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant (DCTAG) program receives $40 million a year from the federal government and provides grants of up to $10,000 to qualified college-bound students. The White House on Monday released its 2019 budget, which includes a proposal to cease funding for the program.

“There are times where we can work together, and there are times where we have to stand together and fight back. When it comes to DCTAG which helps our kids go to college, I am going to fight back with all I’ve got,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said Tuesday.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, nearly 7,500 people had signed a petition to Congress from Miss Bowser to save the program. The mayor launched the #SaveDCTAG petition on social media on Monday, hailing a “successful program” that helped “expand educational opportunities” for city residents.

“The elimination of DCTAG would be devastating to many of the gains we have made in higher education over the past couple decades,” D.C. Council member Robert C. White, Jr., at-large Democrat and member of the Education Committee, told The Washington Times on Tuesday.

Noting that the District has no state network of universities, Mr. White said many native D.C. students would be forced to study locally without the tuition aid program.

City officials estimate that about 26,000 D.C. students have benefited from the DCTAG program since it started issuing grants in 2000.

In calling for an end to funding for the program, the Trump budget notes “a lack of a clear federal role for supporting the cost of higher education specifically for District residents.” The budget also pointed out that the District’s economy is much better today than it was when the program was founded.

However, the future for the proposed budget cut — and the program — are unclear: The Government Accountability Office confirmed Tuesday to The Times that it is reviewing DCTAG as part of a request from the Senate Appropriations Committee in November.

Congress created the program in 1999 to expand options for college-bound D.C. students, whose only “state” school would be the University of the District of Columbia.

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education provides an annual report of DCTAG’s accomplishments on the city government website.

According to the 2014 report (the most recent on the website):

3,111 grants were awarded to households earning less than $63,001, with 1,655 grants going to households earning less than $22,001.

1,404 grants were given to households earning more than $63,000, with 1,004 grants going to households earning more than $87,000.

3,280 grants were given to African-Americans, 521 to Hispanics and 497 to whites, with all other categories totaling 272 grants.

918 grants were awarded in Ward 7, 846 in Ward 4, 787 in Ward 5 and 748 in Ward 8; all other wards totaled 1,242 grants and the ward was “known” for 29 grants.

The DCTAG program can provide grants to students attending most public universities, all historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and many private nonprofit colleges.

A mother who lives in the Dupont Circle area told The Times that four of her five children have used DCTAG grants to attend college, adding that the financial assistance saved her family thousands of dollars.

“The TAG program has been a great gift for our family,” Eleanor Gaetan, 57, and a legislative adviser at the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, said in a social media message. “It allowed four children to stay at home in the District and commute to colleges in Virginia and Maryland, which made tuition affordable.”

Two of Ms. Gaetan’s children received DCTAG’s maximum grant of $10,000.

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