At his May 2 campaign kickoff, mayoral candidate Kevin Chavous proposed having the nine D.C.-based private universities offer “reduced in-state tuition” to every graduate of District high schools. The Ward 7 councilmember’s idea impressed the media, his supporters, and cash-strapped parents across the cityin other words, all the people who have no say whatsoever in the matter.
“I wouldn’t consider giving reduced tuition to every kid that graduated from schools in the District of Columbia,” says Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, hard-working parent and president of George Washington University. “With all due respect to my neighbors, I’m not sure people living in million-dollar houses need to have GW supporting their kid through college.”
How about all those families who don’t live next door to a university president? “I don’t think Mr. Chavous understands that we’re already doing that,” says Patricia A. McGuire, president of Trinity College. “More than one-third of our students are District residents. We discount their tuitions already if they’re potentially eligible, and I suspect that virtually all of them are.”
Chavous’ bright idea “does not reflect a genuine understanding of how higher education is handled,” says McGuire. “Usually, it’s the state that gives to us. There’s this perceptionand the members of the city council have itthat all the private colleges are big, fat, wealthy institutions.”
Perhaps Chavous would make more headway if he focused on his job as the D.C. Council’s education committee chairand kicked out proposals for teaching city students to read and write. Says Georgetown University spokesperson Daniel Wackerman, “Georgetown is a university that has a national and international draw. It’s highly competitive. I’m not saying [Chavous’ proposal] wouldn’t be a possibility, but…it sounds huge, so I think we’ll stay out of this one at this point.”CP