D.C. Tuition Assistance Grants:

Program May Increase College Choices, but a Few Program Procedures May Hinder Grant Receipt for Some Residents

GAO-02-265: Published: Dec 26, 2001. Publicly Released: Jan 31, 2002.

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Twenty-one percent of grant-eligible applicants who did not use the District of Columbia's tuition assistance grant (TAG) funding to attend a participating college or university may have encountered such barriers as college entrance requirements and the absence of minority outreach programs. Whether enrollment caps at colleges posed a barrier for applicants is unclear. In the program's first year, 516 of the nearly 2,500 eligible applicants did not use the grants. About 21 percent of the institutions in which applicants expressed interest restrict the number of out-of-state students that they will accept, although the extent to which this played a role in limiting access to these institutions is unclear. Enrollment at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) changed little during the TAG program's first year. The TAG program and UDC appeared to serve different freshmen populations, which may account for the TAG program's minimal impact on UDC enrollment. Although concerns about TAG program administration were largely resolved with the revision of program regulations in December 2000, other administrative issues may hinder program operations, including the determination of applicant eligibility and the distribution of information on institutions participating in the program.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The District of Columbia Tuition Assistant Grant office has decided to implement parts one and two of GAO's recommendation. Currently, the office has no plans to implement the third part of the recommendation. In January 2002, the office began completely processing all applications with full documentation. The office has also revised award letters to explain to eligible applicants that the colleges they listed are ineligible and that an eligible school must be selected to receive the grant.

    Recommendation: The mayor of D.C. should direct the TAG Program office to change the current applicant eligibility determination process to ensure that (1) all applicants receive a full review to determine their eligibility to receive the grant, (2) eligible applicants who indicate interest only in ineligible institutions are made aware in their award letters that the institutions listed on their applications are ineligible and that an eligible school must be selected for the applicants to receive the tuition assistance grant, and (3) all letters sent to eligible applicants indicate which institutions have already formally agreed to participate in the grant program.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia: Executive Office of the Mayor

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In March 2003, the District of Columbia Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG) office added the list of schools that have formal agreements with the District to its website. The TAG office no longer uses a pamphlet to inform students of the schools that are eligible to participate in the program. This effort clearly indicates which eligible postsecondary institutions have formally agreed to participate in the grant program.

    Recommendation: The mayor of D.C. should direct the TAG Program office to indicate clearly in the pamphlet promoting the TAG Program which eligible postsecondary institutions have already formally agreed to participate in the grant program.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia: Executive Office of the Mayor

 

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