This post was updated on November 9, 2022. It was originally published on May 3, 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 our college funding workshop, Little-Known Secrets of Paying for College.
The short answer is…. No!
But there is a 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 receive, 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.
Fortunately, there are other strategies you can combine with DCTAG to lower out-of-state costs.
Since Washington D.C. has no public university except for UDC, 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.
There is legislation in the works to increase this number to $15,000 annually, but we are waiting for implementation.
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 for six years, with a lifetime maximum of $12,500.
You can also use the program for community college. The maximum annual award for two-year community colleges is also $2,500, with a lifetime maximum of $10,000.
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). In-state tuition at UVA for first-year students is about $17,000, and out-of-state is about $52,000.
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 remaining balance. In this case, not taking into account any financial aid, you would still be responsible to pay $35,000 out-of-pocket. And we are just talking about tuition. Tack on another $17,000 for the full cost of attendance (room, board, etc.).
Ok, so UVA is quite expensive for non-residents compared to other schools. You’ll often find a larger non-resident premium with brand-name flagship 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 is about $15,000 compared to $5,000 for in-state. If you received the full grant of $10,000, your tuition bill would come in close to the 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, has dropped precipitously in the last five years. If your child started college in fall 2022, your taxable income must be less than $547,045 to qualify.
Among other things, you must submit the FAFSA and 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. Here is the 2022-2023 list of participating colleges.
When Should You Apply for DCTAG?
The open application period for the DCTAG program opens on February 1st of 2023 and runs through mid-September. If your student is a senior in high school right now, then you should prepare all supporting documents to submit the application in February of 2023.
DCTAG 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.
A note on the DCTAG website: It’s a bit of a travesty. Although it’s rather unintuitive and poorly laid out, the information you need is all there–just keep looking for it.
Ultimately, $10,000 is nothing to scoff at, but this tuition assistance grant should be just one weapon in your arsenal of college funding devices. To learn more about saving and paying for college, check out one of our free Little-Known Secrets of Paying for College webinars:
Perhaps, you already have a general sense of how to save and pay for college, but you desire to reduce costs, use more tax-efficient dollars, or safeguard your retirement. Consider talking to one of our college funding experts for a free, no-strings-attached consultation.