Giving up on DC tuition assistance program is giving up on DC students

Giving up on DC tuition assistance program is giving up on DC students
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As a young Washingtonian, Edward Doxen watched his uncle become the first person in his family to attend college. Although unsure of his own future, he knew he wanted to give back to his community and continuously set himself, and others, up for success.

Years later, with the encouragement of his teachers and advisors, Edward enrolled at Delaware State University. Like millions of students every year, he wondered whether he would be able to pay for his education, or whether earning enough money to pay for classes and supplies would become an overwhelming task that would distract him from reaching his goals.  Fortunately, Edward found a lifeline — the DC Tuition Assistance Grant (DCTAG). With the help of DCTAG, Edward could focus on academics, student government, and community service and was able to graduate in four years.

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In his Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal, President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP lawmakers preparing to vote on bill allowing migrant children to be detained longer than 20 days: report Wasserman Schultz: Infants separated from their parents are in Florida immigrant shelters Ex-White House ethics chief: Sarah Sanders tweet violates ethics laws MORE has eliminated funding for DCTAG. For nearly two decades, both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have supported this one-of-a-kind program that expands educational opportunities for college-bound Washingtonians by providing grants of up to $10,000 toward the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition at public colleges and HBCUs.

Over the years, more than 26,000 young people have benefitted from DCTAG, with the vast majority of those students coming from families with annual incomes of less than $30,000. For the estimated cost of the president’s military parade, we are able to send thousands of young people to college each year.

Students across the country joined me in calling on Congress to preserve funding for this critical program. They, and thousands of others, have signed our petition at SaveDCTAG.dc.gov.

As we continue to have nationwide conversations about college access and success, cutting DCTAG is a step in the wrong direction. In today’s economy, a college education is a critical pathway to the middle class. It is unfathomable that any leader in our country would try to eliminate a program like DCTAG rather than expand it. To reduce inequality, we must continue to open doors of opportunity, not close them.

We urge Congress to ensure this critical financial lifeline for so many students and families is not eliminated. The 4,000 students who currently receive DCTAG funding and whose future would be jeopardized if the program is eliminated are real people with real dreams for themselves, their families, and communities.

For many students and families, young people like Erica Lamberson who graduated as the salutatorian of Spelman College’s Class of 2015, DCTAG has meant the difference between the end of the road and a new, extraordinary opportunity. The program breaks down barriers by allowing students from every background to earn a college degree. And when two-thirds of jobs will require some college education, a degree is not just a piece of paper — it is higher earnings, access to health benefits, lower unemployment rates, and the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally.

DCTAG sends a message to our young people that higher education is not a luxury reserved for the wealthy. For many, a fair shot at the American Dream means a fair shot at a college education. As a country, we cannot let a $10,000 grant be the difference between a shot at success and an uncertain future. Our young people deserve better than that.

Without a vote in Congress, all we have in Washington, D.C., to defend ourselves is our voice. Now, we need Americans around the country to back us up. Visit SaveDCTAG.dc.gov to help us send a message to Congress that preserving DCTAG is an investment in our future leaders and an investment in our country.

Muriel Bowser is the mayor of Washington, DC.