Senate Democrats

H.R. 1124/S. 343, the District of Columbia College Access Reauthorization Act

Background and Summary

H.R.1124/S.343, the District of Columbia College Access Reauthorization Act, would reauthorize the District of Columbia Tuition Assistance Grant (DCTAG).  The DCTAG program was authorized in 1999 to function as a state higher education system for District of Columbia residents, who do not have access to a state higher education system to provide them with affordable higher education opportunities. 

Under current law, the DCTAG program provides scholarships to District of Columbia residents who attend public colleges outside of the District of Columbia; private post-secondary institutions in the District of Columbia, Maryland, or Virginia; or any historically black college or university.  Students who attend public schools receive grants equal to the difference between the in-state tuition paid by residents of the state and the out-of-state tuition charged to non-resident students with an annual limit of $10,000 and $50,000 aggregate.  Private-school students receive a $2,500 maximum annual grant and $12,500 maximum in aggregate. The private-school tuition grants are restricted to nonprofit institutions.  DCTAG is currently funded at $33 million. The President’s budget and the District of Columbia’s budget propose increasing funding for the program to $35.1 million for Fiscal Year 2008.

Since the first grants were awarded in 2000, the program has dispersed more than 26,000 grants, totaling over $141 million to 9,769 District students.  More than 1,500 have graduated from college, and 38 percent of students receiving grants are the first in their family to attend college.  The District of Columbia has seen a 60 percent increase in college attendance since 2000 among District of Columbia public school graduates, with 55 percent of those students being the first to attend college in their family.  For the school year 2005-2006, the DCTAG program provided $30.5 million to more than 4,700 students. 

Major Provisions

H.R.1124/S.343 would reauthorize the DCTAG program for another five years, through September 30, 2012.  The bill would authorize the appropriation of such sums as may be necessary to implement the legislation.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the necessary appropriations would total $208 million from 2008 through 2012. 

Legislative History

On February 15, 2007, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC) approved S.343, the District of Columbia College Access Reauthorization Act by a voice vote.  On May 14, 2007, the House approved H.R.1124, legislation identical to S.343, by a vote of 268-100.  H.R.1124 will serve as the vehicle for the Senate to consider the District of Columbia College Access Reauthorization Act.  On September 24, 2007, a unanimous consent agreement was reached, pursuant to which the Senate will consider H.R.1124.  Floor debate is scheduled to begin on September 18 following morning business, with Senators Akaka and Voinovich, as Chair and Ranking Member of the HSGAC Subcommittee on the District of Columbia.  Debate will be limited to 65 minutes, with time divided as follows: 

·        Thirty minutes under the control of Senator Coburn;

·        Twenty minutes under the control of Senator Voinovich; and

·        Fifteen minutes under the control of Senator Akaka

  Possible Amendments

Pursuant to the consent agreement, the following amendments proposed by Senator Coburn will be in order: 

·        The first amendment would exclude any District of Columbia resident whose family income exceeds one million dollars from qualifying for DCTAG assistance.  Under the consent agreement, this amendment will be accepted by the Chairman and Ranking Member of HSGAC.

·        The second amendment would increase the private school maximum assistance to match the level of grants for public school assistance.  According to HSGAC majority staff, this amendment conflicts with the intended purpose of the program to act as a state higher education system.  HSGAC also maintains that the amendment would increase the cost of the program by approximately $5 million annually, reduce the amount of assistance provided to students for public schools, and threaten the integrity of the DCTAG program.

Administration Position

As of the time of publication, the Bush Administration has not issued a Statement of Administration Policy with respect to this legislation, but he is expected to sign it.