(Washington, DC) The Office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said today that many more D.C. residents will be eligible for college tuition assistance next school year due to new amendments to the D.C. College Access Act. The President today signed the expansion of Norton’s bill, following congressional approval of the amendments in March. Congresswoman Norton said she is pleased and appreciative that the Act has been fully funded by President Bush in his 2003 budget.
The new amendments expands the original law in several significant ways. One amendment allows DC residents to receive a $2,500 stipend to attend any historically Black college or university (HBCU) in the country, rather than only in the region, as in the original Act.
Students who graduated prior to 1998 were not included in the original College Access Act because of the Senate's fear that funding would be insufficient. Norton got the agreement of the Senate to expand tuition benefits to two groups of older students. The first group is DC residents currently enrolled in college regardless of when these students graduated and regardless of the amount of time it took these students to enroll in college. A second group of older students benefits as a result of language that removes a requirement that a student enroll in college no later than three years after high school graduation. Also included in the Senate bill is an amendment that closes a loophole that allowed foreign nationals who live in DC to benefit--a result never intended by the sponsors.
"It is impossible to overestimate the value and importance of this Act to the District, which has only an open admissions University and no state university system," Norton said. "This bill brings higher education opportunities for the District's young people much closer to those regularly enjoyed in the districts of other members of Congress. A college degree is particularly critical in the District of Columbia because ours is a white collar and technology city and region with few factories or other opportunities for jobs that provide good wages without a college education."
The original Act allows DC residents to attend any public college or university anywhere in the United States at in-state tuition rates or to receive $2,500 to attend any private college or HBCU in the city or region. Already, 2,500 DC students are attending more than 150 colleges because of funds provided by the Act.