D.C. Tuition Program May Lose Funds
The new federal program to help District of Columbia students qualify for lower college tuition may be a casualty, at least temporarily, of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
The House of Representatives wants to withhold half of the program’s $17 million budget for 2002 until the city government produces an emergency crisis response plan acceptable to Congress. Many lawmakers have faulted the District for having incomplete emergency plans, which led to some confusion following the terrorist attack on the Pentagon.
City officials presented the House with a new emergency plan in late September, but lawmakers still believed that the plan was not comprehensive enough, congressional aides say.
The tuition aid program is among many D.C. initiatives with funding withheld temporarily until the city produces an acceptable emergency plan. Under the aid program, D.C. high school graduates — including many students of color — can qualify for “in-state” tuition rates at any public college or university. Students also can get vouchers to help pay tuition at private colleges in the Washington area.
Many Washington-area lawmakers are criticizing the decision to withhold funds. “Congress ought not to punish the students and the other citizens of the District by withholding funds in this manner,” says Rep. Connie Morella, R-Md., who represents suburbs around D.C.
That provision, along with others in the House of Representatives’ D.C. spending bill, “trouble me deeply,” says Morella, a moderate Republican.
However, senior Republican and Democratic lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee consider the move essential to promote regional safety following the Sept. 11 attacks. They also note that D.C. programs could receive their full allotments by the time a 2002 spending bill weaves through Congress and reaches President Bush’s desk.
The House has approved the D.C. spending plan by a 325 to 88 vote. However, a 2002 D.C. spending bill is still pending in the Senate.
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