This post was originally published on May 3, 2019. It was updated on December 31, 2019.
Do Washington D.C. Residents Get In-State College Tuition in All States?
This is the most common question I hear when I give my college workshop, Little Known Secrets of Paying for College.
The short answer is…. No!
But there is good reason why this myth is propagated. If you reside in D.C. you may qualify for a tuition grant through the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program (DCTAG), which, depending on what school you go to and what aid package you received, might lower your tuition to in-state rates.
But this is rare. Back when the DCTAG Program was created in 1999, it provided an enormous benefit and often matched, or came close to matching, in-state costs. As college costs have skyrocketed in the past two decades, however, the grant values have remained roughly the same. It can still cover the whole difference at a few select schools, but in general, D.C. residents will still pay more than in-state residents without any other forms of aid.
The DCTAG Program is managed by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), on behalf of the Mayor of District of Columbia and funded annually by Congress. Over the years DCTAG has awarded over $440 million to help over 26,000 residents reduce the cost of college.
Since Washington D.C. has no state university, the DCTAG assists D.C. residents by defraying the cost of out-of-state tuition. For public schools, the program will help cover the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for up to $10,000 a year for 6 years, with a lifetime maximum of $50,000.
In addition, undergraduate students who choose to attend private colleges and universities in the D.C. metropolitan area as well as those who choose to attend any private Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) throughout the nation, are eligible to receive a grant for up to $2,500 a year, with a lifetime maximum of $12,500. You can also use the program for community college. The maximum annual award for 2-year community colleges is also $2,500, with a lifetime maximum of $10,000.
So, How Does the DCTAG Program Actually Work?
Let’s use a popular public school to explain this. Imagine that you live in DC and have chosen to attend the University of Virginia (UVA). The in-state tuition at UVA for Fall 2019 first-year students was $19,300 and out-of-state tuition was $49,280. The DCTAG would pay up to $10,000 to help cover the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition, and you are responsible for the balance. In this case, you would still be responsible to pay $39,280 per year. And we are just talking about tuition. Tack on another $15,000 for the full cost of attendance (note that UVA is quite expensive for non-residents compared to other schools).
The good news is that there are more affordable options out there. What if you chose to attend the University of South Florida instead? Out-of-state tuition at South Florida for the year 2019 was about $17,324 compared to $6,410 for in-state. If you received the full grant of $10,000 you would essentially be paying in-state rates. Not too shabby.
Obviously, it can still be costly to go to these schools, but a $10,000 grant is nothing to scoff at, especially when you combine this with other forms of financial aid.
Qualifying for DCTAG
So how do you go about obtaining the grant? First off, there is an income limit for qualification, which although lenient, was lowered again this past March. If your child starts college this upcoming fall, your taxable income must be less than $500,000 to qualify. Among other things, you must also provide proof of US citizenship or legal residency and a minimum 12-month DC residency prior to application.
The next step is checking to see if the schools to which you are applying are part of the DCTAG program. The program has over 300 participating colleges and universities. You can surf the list here.
The open application period for the DCTAG program is from Feb 1st to June 30th and it operates on a first come first served basis, so apply as soon as you can. Just like the FAFSA, you must apply for DCTAG every year that you want to be considered for this grant.