The D.C. Council on March 4 approved a so-called “D.C. Promise” bill that will provide higher education scholarships to low-income D.C. students.
The new tax-payer scholarship would provide up to $7,500 a year to high school graduates to pay for college. The scholarship was introduced by Councilmember David Catania (I-At- Large), who is considering a run for mayor.
Following the final approval of the D.C. Promise scholarship, a letter was sent to Mayor Vincent Gray (D) requesting that he include the program in his fiscal year 2015 budget. If the program is funded under the city’s budget, the first year would cost $7.8 million, increasing to about $20 million by 2017.
According to Catania’s chief of staff, Brendan Williams-Kief, the scholarship program would help make obtaining higher education a more realistic possibility for students from economically challenged backgrounds, and would also increase their future employment prospects.
“Affordability is a huge barrier for the students that attend district schools, and it’s such a barrier that a lot of students don’t think that college is even an option for them,” said Williams-Kief.
To be eligible, students must be a resident of the District of Columbia, and enrolled in a District public or private school. More information on student’s eligibility can be found at http://www.davidcatania.com/dcpromise.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) raised concerns that the program could potentially impact a federal scholarship program that also provides grants to District students who have graduated from high school, known as the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program.
Williams-Kief said the D.C. Promise scholarship is not meant to replace the program, but to support and complement it. The D.C. Promise scholarship can be used to cover non-tuition fees such as books or room and board.
President Obama recently announced his proposed fiscal year 2015 budget which recommends an increase in D.C. TAG program from $30 million to $40 million.
Williams-Kief also noted that the D.C. Promise scholarship would benefit the District economically and financially by reducing loans in the District.
According to a report by a credit monitoring company Credit Karma Inc., District residents are burdened with some of the highest amounts of student loans anywhere in the nation, averaging $47,390 in loans per student.
“Our hope will be that the program will get up and running in the next fiscal year. In about this time next year, students could start applying for it. And they would apply for it probably the same way that they would apply for D.C. TAG,” said Williams-Kief.