Our children are growing up in a world with challenges and opportunities that previous generations could never have imagined. They must be equipped with the tools they will need to succeed in the increasingly competitive 21st century economy.
The “D.C. Promise Establishment Act of 2013” seeks to guarantee that every District student can pursue a college or technical education after high school.
David Catania's Big Idea
by Jonetta Rose Barras
"Education has always been perceived as the great equalizer. In the District, however, simply flashing a high school diploma won’t get you very far."
What is the D.C. Promise?
College is expensive. And it is growing more expensive with each passing year. In fact, the cost of higher education is growing faster than family incomes. As a result, many students, especially those from low-income families, are unable to continue their education after high school for financial reasons.
The D.C. Promise is intended to encourage District students to pursue their educational goals by providing additional assistance for tuition and fees after other sources of financial aid have been exhausted.
Who is eligible for the D.C. Promise?
To be eligible for the D.C. Promise, students must meet the following criteria:
- They must have been enrolled in a District secondary school between, at a minimum, grades 9 through 12.
- They must have graduated from a District secondary school or receive an equivalency diploma.
- They must have lived in the District for at least 1 year prior to enrolling in a qualifying post-secondary program (excluding periods of military or other national service).
- They must be from a household with an annual income of less than 200% of the Area Median Income (AMI) adjusted for household size.
Why is the D.C. Promise important?
In the 21st century economy, a college or technical post-secondary education is no longer a luxury. A litany of research suggests that higher education has a direct impact on a person’s lifetime earnings and that poor or low-income students can dramatically increase their chances of moving into the middle class by attaining a 2- or 4-year degree.
But we all benefit when our students continue formal education after high school. According to the Economic Policy Institute, “Providing expanded access to high quality education will not only expand economic opportunity for residents, but also likely do more to strengthen the overall state economy than anything else a state government can do.”
How much is the D.C. Promise worth?
The D.C. Promise will cover the costs of tuition and fees after other sources of non-loan financial aid have been exhausted. The maximum amount of the grant will depend on the student’s household income. Below is a breakdown of award levels based on household income and size:
In addition, students in the District’s foster care system are eligible for an additional grant of $10,000 to cover living expenses and other related costs.
Where can the D.C. Promise be used?
Download the Legislation
In today’s world of skyrocketing college tuition costs, students are increasingly forced to forgo life-changing opportunities due to the inability to pay. The D.C. Promise is intended to help District students pursue their educational goals wherever this might lead them. As such, D.C. Promise grants can be used at a variety of post-secondary institutions nationwide, including four (4) year colleges, two (2) year colleges, and accredited certificate programs, to cover both tuition and non-tuition expenses, such as books, room, and board.
How is the D.C. Promise different from the D.C. TAG?
- D.C. TAG was developed to help residents earning up to $1 million in annual income, whereas the D.C. Promise is designed to reduce financial barriers to accessing higher education for low income District residents.
- D.C. TAG pays the difference in costs between in-state and out-of-state tuition at eligible public colleges and universities to help offset additional costs incurred by eligible District students who leave the state due to the lack of a robust public university system. The D.C. Promise pays for costs that are not covered by D.C. TAG but still contribute to the enormous financial burden of attending college.
- D.C. TAG assistance is primarily directed to be used for tuition at public, 4-year institutions, whereas the D.C. Promise can be used at all accredited institutions of higher education, as well as accredited career programs.
 Economic Policy Institute, "Class of 2012: Labor Market for Young Graduates Remains Grim," May 2012
 Pew Research Center, "Promoting Economic Mobility by Increasing Post-Secondary Education,” 2009.
 Pew Research Center, “Promoting Economic Mobility by Increasing Post-Secondary Education,” 2009.
 Economic Policy Institute, “A Well Educated Workforce is Key to State Prosperity,” August 2012, emphasis added.