D.C. offers needs-based tuition grants

Starting this fall, D.C. college students will have the opportunity to receive needs-based financial support from the District government.

Local education officials believe the program will close a loophole in the city’s existing D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program, also known as D.C. TAG.

“This couldn’t have come at a better time,” says Zataunia Heard, a Trinity University student.

22-year-old Heard is a Junior at Trinity and with another year and a half to go before earning her nursing degree, she’s nearly out of money and options.

“I was about to max out my loans which would have meant that I would be looking for outside sources of money, like private loans,” she says.

Thanks to the new Mayor’s Scholars Fund, Heard and 188 other students attending colleges and universities, public or private in the District, will receive substantial needs-based grants.

“Whatever money we have to invest in D.C. I’m prepared to do that because that is the future of our city. That’s what will keep people here,” Mayor Vincent Gray said Friday.

The grants range from up to $3,000 for students at The Community College of D.C., $7,000 for UDC students and $10,000 for students at private universities in the District.

“For me especially, college is kind of like a gamble,” says Daniel Perez, a student at American University. “Imagine coming out of college not having a job and having to pay back all that debt and al this pressure, having to pay it back so quickly.”

Program officials say they hope to fill in the gaps in D.C.’s TAG program, which is not needs-based and provides financial support to local high school graduates attending college outside of the District.

“However, the way it’s structured is if a child or student attends or chooses to attend college in D.C. they don’t have the same access to those fed resources, so this program supplements what’s already available to students who leave D.C. We want to keep our talent at home,” says Hosanna Mahaley, D.C. State Superintendent.

Grant recipients were selected based on D.C. residency, academic standing, along with campus leadership.

“I’m just looking forward to working and sharing my experience with other students, giving them advice so they don’t make the same mistakes I did,” says Heard.

The mayor’s office says the program was funded by adding $1.5 million to the District fiscal year 2013 budget.

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