Grants Lure D.C. Kids To Va., Md. Schools - Higher Education

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Grants Lure D.C. Kids To Va., Md. Schools

by Black Issues

Grants Lure D.C. Kids To Va., Md. Schools

Colleges and universities in Maryland and Virginia are favored by high school graduates here benefiting from a new federal grant program that offers cheaper rates at all public and a few private institutions in the nation.
The program’s officials and educators say the grant, coupled with heavy recruiting from the colleges, is attracting students who would not otherwise have applied to the universities.
“The preliminary data shows that there has been an increase in the number of students applying for college,” says Georgia Booker, head of counseling with District of Columbia schools. “That’s the best deal ever, and these colleges in Maryland and Virginia are recruiting like never before in D.C.”
The program received 2,500 applications from students for this coming school year, including some from those already in college, says Laurent Ross, director of the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program.
The students’ top choice was D.C.’s private Howard University, listed by 197 grant applicants last spring, followed by the University of Maryland at College Park, mentioned in 184 applications. Ranking next among applicants were Norfolk State and Virginia State universities, with 177 mentions each. Maryland’s Morgan State University, Montgomery College and Prince George’s Community College took fifth, sixth and seventh place respectively.
Other Virginia schools attracting grant applicants were Hampton University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Union University and George Mason University, ranking eighth, 12th, 13th and 15th respectively.
The applications listed schools the students were interested in, but Ross did not yet have a breakdown of which schools the students decided to attend.
Meanwhile, Ross says that 79 of the colleges in which students have expressed interest have signed up for the program, which provides up to $10,000 a year to Washington’s high school graduates, who previously were eligible for cheaper, in-state rates only at the University of the District of Columbia.
“Virginians really have 58 public colleges, and Maryland has 28,” says Ross, who included community colleges and adult education centers in his numbers. “In D.C. there is only one choice if you want to pay in-state rates, and Congress thought it would be a good idea to expand the students’ choices.”
But the program — like many that are federally funded — does come with some regulatory red tape that may discourage its spread too far across the country. Many colleges on the West Coast, for example, that only get one or two D.C. students per year, would be unlikely to participate given the burden of the paperwork compared with the small number of students it would bring, Ross says.
Still, advocates of the tuition bill say that it may help some colleges in their student diversity goals.
“This is the kind of thing that everyone can get behind,” Ross says, noting that D.C. boasts a  62 percent Black population. “This is affirmative action with none of the things that White people criticize it for.”
Starting with the class of 1998, Washington high school graduates are eligible for the grant. They will receive up to $10,000 to reimburse the difference between public institutions’ in-state and out-of-state tuition rates, Ross says. Students attending private colleges in D.C. and private, historically Black colleges in Virginia and Maryland are allowed grants of up to $2,500 a year.
The grant pays only for tuition, and payment is made directly to the college.
D.C. resident Kheira Benkreira, 18, says she never would have thought of applying to the University of Virginia had it not been for the grant.
“It pushed me to apply. I was thinking of going to Georgetown,” Benkreira says. “Then UVA invited me down … and I fell in love with it.”
Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., introduced the bill last year after learning that families with children in high school were moving from the city to Virginia and Maryland to be eligible for cheaper college tuition, says Davis’ spokesman, David Marin.
“Number one, the city really needs to be keeping these families, and number two, it’s a question of fairness,” Marin says. Dozens of families have called the congressman’s office to say they are moving back to the city because of the grant program, Marin adds.
The city’s spending bill introduced last month pared the program’s budget down to $14 million from this year’s $17 million, but Davis, who heads the House subcommittee overseeing D.C., plans to restore the figure to $17 million, Marin says. 

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