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OSSE Hosts First-Ever Conference to Support DC Futures Students in Completing College

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Today, The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) hosted the first-ever DC Futures Conference, a gathering of more than 400 DC residents enrolled in the DC Futures college access program, that offered workshops, resources, and strategies on how to address personal and financial barriers to college completion.

“Given the number of high-wage, high-growth, high-demand jobs in the DC Metropolitan area that require a college education, a two- or four-year degree is no longer a ‘nice to have,’ it’s a must-have. But for many DC residents, the cost and time demands associated with pursuing a degree can push career goals and aspirations out of reach,” said State Superintendent Dr. Christina Grant. “The DC Futures program pays a significant portion, or in some cases all, of our scholars’ tuition and provides coaching support. Today’s DC Futures Conference provides additional support to ensure students can persist through college and earn that degree no matter the life pressures they face.”

Held in-person at Trinity Center on the campus of Trinity Washington University, the DC Futures Conference served as a kick-off to the DC Futures Program 2023-24 academic year, offering a variety of workshops to help students develop skills to overcome any setbacks they may encounter as they work toward their degrees. The event also gave students a chance to network with other DC Futures participants.

Participants in the DC Futures program are eligible to receive up to $8,000 per academic year in addition to a stipend of up to $1,500 a year and up to $2,000 annually in emergency funds for unanticipated expenses that can be challenging to cover, such as food, housing, healthcare and child care. 

This academic year, 1489 DC residents enrolled in college course with assistance through the DC Futures program. Students such as Melissa Lazo Contrers say the tuition support they received in DC Futures was essential and, when paired with the additional supports of coaching and access to emergency funds, DC Futures served as a catalyst to start and complete her higher education goals at Trinity Washington University.

Launched in spring 2022 through a $12 million investment by Mayor Muriel Bowser and offered through OSSE, the DC Futures Program provides tuition, coaching and financial supports to DC residents pursuing their first associate or bachelor’s degree in high-demand career fields, including Information Technology, Health Science and Education. Students enrolled in DC Futures take courses at three DC institutions of higher education: Trinity Washington University, University of the District of Columbia and the Catholic University of America.

"Before [the DC Futures], my attention was divided between work and school to try to get the funds to pay for school,” said Contrers. “But this has allowed me to solely focus on school and then my coaches have guided me tremendously.”

Alisa Norris, who also graduated from Trinity Washington University with support from DC Futures, said the coaching provided through the program helped her persevere through any barriers she encountered as she worked toward her degree.

“Whatever I went through, I was able to text my mentors and they pushed and pushed me and told me that I could do it,” said Norris.

As the state education agency for the District of Columbia, OSSE is committed to maintaining DC’s momentum toward increasing postsecondary enrollment and eliminating barriers to education so that DC residents of all ages can access the quality education they deserve. DC Futures and OSSE’s other college access and assistance programs, such as the DC Dual Enrollment Consortium Program, the DC Tuition Assistance Grant (DCTAG) and Mayor’s Scholars, help increase the number of DC residents, particularly those farthest from opportunity, enrolled in postsecondary education and on a pathway to the middle class. 

Visit OSSE’s website to learn more about DC Futures and other college access programs for DC residents.