Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, H.R. 1124, the District of Columbia College Access Act of 1999, will reauthorize funding for the District of Columbia Tuition Assistance Grant, the DCTAG program, which will help promote higher education for high school graduates in the District of Columbia.
DCTAG provides grants for District high school students to attend public colleges and universities nationwide at in-state tuition rates. Additionally, the bill provides smaller grants for District students to attend private institutions in the D.C. metropolitan area and to attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities nationwide.
The impact of this legislation on the community and in the lives of the students who receive the grants cannot be minimized. DCTAG reaches students and communities where there is no hope of being able to obtain a college education. This is particularly true for many of the students that participate in DCTAG. Fifty-eight percent of the students who participate in the program come from low-income households.
Furthermore, students that participate are attending educational institutions that are known to nurture students of color. Five of the top 10 schools these students attend are HBCUs: Hampton University, Morehouse College, Virginia Union University, St. Augustine's College, and Bennett College.
While students from all races participate in the program and attend over 270 institutions in 47 States, including nationally recognized public institutions like the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the University of Illinois, the University of California-Berkeley, and Ohio State University, this program serves a community that is lacking resources for students of color from low-income households.
Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the ranking minority member, Representative Tom Davis, and, of course, the distinguished gentlewoman from the District of Columbia for introducing and championing this legislation.
I urge all of my colleagues to support it.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. WESTMORELAND. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
This bill would simply reauthorize the DCTAG program for an additional 5 years and enable District residents to [Page: H4919]
continue to attend certain colleges and universities at in-state rates. President Bush, in his budget submission for fiscal year 2008, has included sufficient funds to make this happen. I know that Ranking Member Davis, Mr. Davis of Illinois, and Ms. Norton have worked very hard to bring this bill to the floor.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to yield such time as she may consume to the author of this legislation, the gentlewoman from the District of Columbia, Delegate ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON.
Ms. NORTON. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I certainly thank him for his own hard work and strong support on this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in support of H.R. 1124, the bill that will reauthorize the District of Columbia Access Act of 1999 and extend the District of Columbia Tuition Assistance Grant program, which it authorizes, for an additional 5 years, and, of course, to thank the House for a bill that has afforded higher education to many students who would otherwise have not received it. I especially thank Chairman HENRY WAXMAN and Chairman DANNY DAVIS for facilitating early consideration
of this noncontroversial bill on suspension. A very special thanks is particularly due to committee ranking member and co-author TOM DAVIS for his strong and indispensable leadership on this legislation when he was Chair of the full committee and for his continued strong support of DCTAG.
This legislation is already returning unusually large dividends for the Federal investment. DCTAG has increased college attendance of D.C. students by an astonishing 60 percent over 5 years. For the 2005-2006 school year, almost 5,000 students received funding from DCTAG to enroll in 646 universities and colleges in 47 States, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Most of these students are the first in their families to attend college. These documented results represent the
city's most important progress toward developing a workforce that can meet the increasing education requirements for employment at average wages in the region. Importantly, this legislation has been instrumental in reversing the steady flight of taxpayers from the District of Columbia, many of whom left the District in order to gain access to lower cost State colleges and universities in the region.
DCTAG acts as a proxy and a substitute for a State university system for the District, which has an open admissions State university, the University of the District of Columbia, but, unlike every State, has no unified system of several colleges and universities. UDC, supported entirely by the city and tuitions of students, is the university of choice for students who must get their education in the District and is itself indispensable to the city, and so much so that I used the opportunity provided
by this bill to achieve funded historically black college status for the UDC that the city has long sought for its State university because the University of the District of Columbia is one of the oldest Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States. As a result, UDC has received an attractive annual HBCU payment since 1999. However, this bill provides higher education access to young people here equivalent to opportunities
available in all the States, rather than only one university, and increases the number of choices necessary to meet today's D.C. student population. Maryland and Virginia, for example, each provide more than 30 different college options to residents. DCTAG provides up to $10,000 annually, which covers State college tuition at most public colleges, or provides up to $2,500 annually to attend private institutions in the city and region.
DCTAG has enjoyed strong bipartisan support since it was created in 1999. The President has shown his confidence in the program by including $35 million for DCTAG in his fiscal year 2008 budget request. The D.C. State Education Office deserves special credit for working diligently and successfully since the bill was enacted to maintain a very solid administration of the program. The District has even moved ahead of the curve to foreclose any future funding shortfalls by engaging in careful planning
and calculations, measuring expected demand and costs and has made adjustments in offerings accordingly.
We are particularly grateful to business leaders in the region, led by Donald Graham, chairman of The Washington Post, who was instrumental in helping to convince Congress of the necessity for the bill. Mr. Graham and the business leaders did not stop there, however. They established the College Access Program, which we call CAP, to provide additional financial support.
More important, CAP provides essential guidance and encouragement to students as they reach the critical time decision for college. We are also grateful to CAP for supplying a support network that has helped the District's TAG program receive excellent, excellent retention rates. For example, of the 1,091 DCTAG freshmen in 2001-2002, 72 percent returned as sophomores; of that, 79 percent returned as juniors; 82 percent as seniors, and 77 percent of the seniors graduated. This, I am sure Members
recognize, is very enviable retention in college graduate rates compared with others around the country.
CAP's 100 percent private funding by business leaders, most from the region, not from the city, is nothing less than a vote of confidence in DCTAG that I believe is warranted by the legislation's documented results.
It is difficult to think of congressional legislation that has brought such immediate and positive results, or that is more appreciated by D.C. residents. To be sure, our D.C. homebuyer and business tax credits, unique to the District and reauthorized again last year, have had similar measurable and documented effects on increasing homeownership and keeping taxpaying residents and businesses in a city without a State tax base that instead must itself carry many State costs. However, if there
are to be homeowners and taxpayers in the District of Columbia in the 21st century, many more of them must have college training.
The economy of this Federal city will always be tied to Federal jobs and jobs related to Federal jobs at the high end. The stability of the Federal sector here has been indispensable to many aspects of the city's economy, but too few of the public and private sector jobs go to District residents. For example, the District continues to be a virtual job machine for the region. The District created 8,500 jobs in the last 12 months, but its unemployment rate remains almost twice the rate in this
region. This disparity represents an education and training mismatch that must be eliminated to assume a decent future for the city's young residents.
H.R. 1124 is one of the District's top priorities this year because of the program's proven benefits to the economy of the city and region, and especially to the city's residents and families. Families have been willing to make the necessary sacrifices to meet the costs of large annual increases in State tuition nationwide, even though the amount they receive from TAG has not increased at all and remains a maximum $10,000 annually, and this despite the modest family incomes of most of our students.
This immensely successful and popular higher education program has proven itself over and over again. It would be difficult, indeed, to think of a program that has returned so much to the city and the Federal Government for the modest amount of Federal funding. Of any measure that I will bring before the House this year, H.R. 1124 certainly ranks near the top in deserving continuing support.
I appreciate the strong bipartisan support and the support of the President of the United States that this vital Federal educational assistance program has received, and I ask for the continued support of the House. I believe the results fostered by the program have earned the support.
I strongly urge approval of 1124.