Local: Education

For the first time, UDC students get financial aid from D.C.

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Local,Education,Lisa Gartner

In 1999, Congress created the D.C. Tuition Assistance Program, or DC TAG, to help District residents pay for college. Students graduating from high school could get up to $10,000 toward tuition at public universities in Maryland, Virginia and the rest of the country, and up to $2,500 toward tuition at area private schools and historically black colleges.

There was just one problem: D.C. students who enrolled at the city's own public university got zilch. Essentially, the city was telling its own college-ready students to hit the road.

That's about to change -- or rather, it already has, quietly. Mayor Vincent Gray is poised to announce Friday a scholarship fund for low-income students that for the first time includes the University of the District of Columbia as well as its two-year community college.

The $1.59 million was earmarked in the fiscal 2013 budget by the mayor, and is already in effect this school year. About 185 students are receiving assistance of up to $7,000 for UDC students, $3,000 for community-college students, and $10,000 for those attending private schools within the District.

"Oh yes, we are delighted that we are receiving it," UDC President Allen Sessoms said. "We got the money very late this year, and we hurried to inform students it was available to them and that they could access the application online, and then they had to print it out and bring it in ... but we're really delighted with what the mayor and folks at the council have done."

Sessoms said he hopes the money will help in UDC's efforts to attract more students and increase the financially troubled school's enrollment.

The Washington Examiner first reported Tuesday that the university is planning to cut programs and staff to bring its per-pupil costs down from $35,152 to $28,527. The flipside of those cuts, however, are new initiatives to increase enrollment at the university and bring in more revenue from tuition.

Per the plan, the university wants to streamline the process for community college students to enroll at the flagship, and target other transfer students; attend more college recruitment fairs and hold its own; recruit older students who have stopped attending the university; revamp the university's website; and create an advisory board on recruitment spanning multiple D.C. agencies.

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

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