This post was updated on August 5, 2021. 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 live 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 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.
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). The in-state tuition + required fees at UVA for fall 2021 first-year students is an estimated $17,418 and out-of-state is $51,948.
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 $41,948 per year. And we are just talking about tuition. Tack on another $17,000 for the full cost of attendance.
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 for 2020-2021 was $17,324 compared to $6,410 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 starts college in fall 2021, your taxable income must be less than $515,108 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. You can surf the list here.
When Should You Apply for DCTAG?
The open application period for the DCTAG program opens on February 1st and runs through September 17th. If your student is a senior this year, then you would submit your application in February 2022.
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.
For more info:
For many families, the cost of higher education is a daunting proposition. We are here to help. To learn more about saving and paying for college without going broke, register for one of our free workshops/webinars to get started on your college funding journey.