Republican Senator Wants to Limit Financial Aid Program for College-Bound Students in the District of Columbia

GOP Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is seeking to implement changes in the popular D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program.

Under the program, students from the District of Columbia, where the population is 60 percent black, can attend state colleges and universities around the country and pay the same tuition as students who live in that state. These grants can be as much as $10,000 a year and can be renewed for up to five years.

In addition, students who attend private colleges and universities in Maryland and Virginia or any historically black college or university, can receive grants of $2,500 per year for up to five years. Since the program was enacted in 1999, college enrollments among the District’s high school graduates has increased by 50 percent. More than 10,000 students have received grants with a total price tag of $141 million.

Senator Coburn wants to limit the program to students who demonstrate financial need. At the present time the program is open to all high school graduates in the District. Coburn also wants to increase the size of grants for students who want to enroll at private colleges outside of Washington.

City officials believe that the benefits of public education should be available to all residents of the District regardless of income, as is the case in other states. But the Coburn plan, with more money for low-income black students who want to attend private colleges in other states, may be the better alternative.