Timothy Peck 5 min read 12th Grade, Financial Aid

What is the DC Tuition Assistance Grant?

College-bound students from Washington, D.C., find themselves in a unique position compared to students from the 50 states: the nation’s capital is home to just one public university, the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). For comparison, Washington, D.C., has a larger population than both Vermont (home to six public colleges) and Wyoming (home to eight public colleges). 

 

In 1999, the DC Tuition Assistance Grant (DCTAG) was created by Congress to expand the higher education choices for college-bound residents of the District of Columbia. In this post, we’ll go over the basics of this grant, and offer expert tips for saving thousands of dollars on college.

 

What is the DC Tuition Assistance Grant? 

 

DCTAG provides two pathways for college-bound residents of the nation’s capital to receive financial assistance to attend schools outside of D.C.—one for those going to public institutions and the other for private. 

 

  • Public Institutions: DCTAG will cover the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition (up to $10,000 and a maximum of six years/$50,000) for D.C. students who attend one of the country’s 2,500+ public colleges and universities. 

 

  • Private Institutions: Eligible students may also take advantage of DCTAG at any Historically Black College or University or private not-for-profit colleges and universities in the Washington metropolitan area. At these schools, DCTAG contributes up to $2,500 per academic year; students may receive awards for up to six years and are limited to a maximum amount award of $12,500. 

 

Who Qualifies for the DC Tuition Assistance Grant?

 

With almost all tuition assistance programs, scholarships, and grants, recipients must meet certain requirements—and the DC Tuition Assistance Grant is no different. To receive a DCTAG, a student must be a U.S. citizen (or have an eligible non-citizenship status), be a resident of the District of Columbia for at least 12 consecutive months prior to college (and maintain residence through matriculation), and must not have a bachelor’s degree. Other requirements include: 

 

  • Attending an eligible institution
  • High school graduate or have a General Equivalency Diploma
  • Not in a defaulted status with federal student loans
  • Enrolled at least on a half-time basis as a regular degree-seeking student
  • 26 years of age or younger

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How to Apply for the DC Tuition Assistance Grant

 

There is a considerable amount of documentation necessary to receive a DCTAG; consequently, starting early is often considered the key to successfully navigating the application process. 

 

  • The first step is to gather all the supporting documentation required by DCTAG  
  • Complete the DC OneApp
  • Complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) 
  • Provide the required supporting documentation—documents must be submitted as PDFs and submitted at the same time

 

Another benefit of starting early on your DCTAG application is that it allows wiggle room in the event of an issue, such as documents not uploading. It also gives you time to contact a counselor if assistance is needed. There are six counselors available to help, assigned to applicants by their last name. The contact information of the DCTAG counselors is found on the DC OneApp.

 

Other Ways to Save Money on College

 

Although the DC Tuition Assistance Grant is only available to students who reside in the nation’s capital, there are a handful of great strategies that students can employ to cut the cost of college, whether they’re from the 50 states or Washington, D.C. 

 

Apply to schools where your profile is especially strong

 

Super-selective colleges have more highly-qualified applicants than open spaces for them—because of this, many of these schools do not need to attract top applicants, and don’t offer merit aid. None of the Ivy League schools award merit aid, and only about half of the top 20 national universities and liberal arts colleges award merit aid.  

 

Less-sought-after schools need to take steps to stand out from a crowded field of colleges to attract top applicants. The primary way they accomplish this is with school-sponsored scholarships. Applying to these schools is a particularly strong strategy for students with strong academic profiles and the qualities an institution is seeking. 

 

Think outside scholarships are more generous than what schools are offering? According to a survey from U.S. News, the average merit award among the 1,078 ranked colleges that responded was approximately $11,279 in fall 2018—an award amount generally reserved for the most lucrative and competitive outside scholarships. In fact, 80% of outside scholarships are under $2,000, which is a small amount compared to hefty tuition costs. 

 

For more tips on merit scholarships, see our post: The Secret to Winning Merit Scholarships.

 

Look for colleges with generous financial aid

 

Many institutions offer a variety of ways to relieve the financial burden of a college education. Here are the different types of financial aid policies that the most generous colleges have:

 

Need-blind: A school with a need-blind admission policy will not consider a student’s financial situation when deciding whether or not to admit them. Although these schools typically offer a generous financial aid package, a need-blind admission policy does not guarantee a student’s access to sufficient funding for college.

 

No-loan: Colleges with no-loan admissions policies provide students with financial assistance through grants and scholarships that do not require repayment, and do not include federal student loans in financial aid packages. 

 

Meet 100% demonstrated need: Schools that meet 100% demonstrated need guarantee that students will receive the necessary funds to cover the cost of tuition. These funds can come from a variety of sources such as grants, scholarships, and federal student loans. 

 

Public colleges and universities have a reputation for being less expensive than private colleges, but this is not always true. According to U.S. News, students are more likely to receive merit aid at a private institution compared to a public one. For example, all of the schools on our list of the top 50 schools giving out the most merit aid are private. Similarly, CNBC reports that the top 10 schools doling out the most financial aid are all private institutions. 

 

Negotiate with colleges

 

One of the myths of the college admissions process is that a financial aid package is non-negotiable, when the fact is just the contrary. If a financial aid package fails to meet your needs or expectations, little harm can come from asking a college for more aid. Positive outcomes are possible (like this one, where CollegeVine helped a student get an extra $11,000 a year in merit aid), while the worst the college can say is no. A few tips for negotiating financial aid packages with colleges are: 

 

  • Leverage: The most favorable deals are often stuck when one party has leverage. If you have better offers from comparable schools, bring them to the bargaining table. 
  • Know what you need: Understand the amount you can afford, what you need, and convey it clearly.
  • Flattery: The old saying “flattery will get you everywhere” resonates when negotiating financial aid. Express to the school that they’re your first choice and you’ll enroll if the extra aid is approved. 
  • Tone: No one wants to deal with demanding or pushy people. Treat everyone you deal with politely and respectfully, and show patience throughout the process—negotiations don’t happen overnight. 

 

CollegeVine’s Advocate tool is another great way to negotiate financial aid packages with colleges. Through our Advocate Tool, students can select their top two schools (signaling interest) and we’ll facilitate communication between them—allowing them to see competing offers and maximizing your leverage.  

 

Start at community college

 

Starting your college career at a community college is another great way to reduce the overall cost of a college education. According to U.S. News, the cost of annual tuition and fees in the 2018-2019 academic year were: 

 

  • Private colleges: $35,676 
  • Out-of-state students at public colleges: $21,629 
  • In-state students at public colleges: $9,716
  • Community college: $3,660 

 

Low cost is a big benefit of attending community college, but there are some drawbacks. Most notably, transferring from a community college to a four-year institution is often tricky. This is especially true for students trying to transfer to top 40 schools or flagship public universities. Interested in learning more about starting at a community college? Check out our blog post Should I Go to a Community College First, Then Transfer?

 

CollegeVine’s free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. This powerful tool can also let you know how you stack up against other applicants, show you how you can improve your profile, and tell you how much financial and merit aid you can expect to receive. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

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Timothy Peck
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.