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The D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program

The plan to subsidize in-state tuition rates for D.C. students at state universities across the country was once heralded as the way to lure middle-class families back to town. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out so well for students who want to travel beyond Maryland or Virginia. Big-name institutions like the University of California have decided that the District program is just too cumbersome—and are refusing to accept its grants.

Another case of death by red tape? We doubt it. After all of that high-profile municipal bragging, you don’t need a Ph.D. to suspect something a little more sinister lurking around the quad. The Washington City Paper’s tenured team of conspiracy theorists have poked around the ivory tower and compiled a list of folks determined to keep our youngsters away from the nation’s campuses:

Suspect:

Burleith Citizens Association, neighborhood group

Motive:

Survival. The tuition grant also pays part of the fee for local private schools like Georgetown, bane of its Burleith neighbors’ existence. If students were instead able to use that money to abandon messy local group houses for West Coast beaches, neighborhood busybodies will have nothing to talk about.

Means:

Busybodies know how to work the bureaucracy better than anyone. They could easily harangue a few government employees to gum up tuition payments.

Suspect:

Parents United for the D.C. Public Schools, school-watchdog group

Motive:

Sentimentality. Sure, they liked the plan in theory. But when they faced the real prospect of Junior moving all the way to Berkeley, Mom and Dad changed their minds.

Means:

If there’s one thing you get good at in 18 years of District parenting, it’s forms: how to read them, how to write them, how to make them too confusing for words.

Suspect:

D.C. voting-rights opponents

Motivation:

Fear. If D.C. college kids fan out across the country—and have scholarship money, to boot—they’re liable to bring their cars. Which means hundreds of communities will be exposed to the city’s dread “taxation without representation” license plates.

Means:

What do you think they do with all those angry letters D.C. citizens mail them? They recycle ’em as needless paperwork for scholarship forms. —Stephanie Mencimer and Michael Schaffer