D.C. Students Get In-State Tuition at Va./Md. Schools, Thanks to NCC Student

Posted: April 13, 2000 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Emily Yaghmour

Thanks in large part to Chartese Day, student of New Century College (NCC), D.C. resident, and 12th runner-up in the 1998 Miss Teen USA beauty pageant, D.C. students no longer have to pay out-of-state tuition rates to attend public colleges and universities in Virginia and Maryland.

While finishing her senior year of high school and applying to colleges, Day worked as a congressional aide in the office of D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. Day is the child of a single mother, who did not have the resources to send her to college, so her mother’s father, Clarence Day, stepped in to help.

Chartese Day was eager to find the best education she could for her grandfather’s money, but she did not feel that UDC, the only public institution in D.C., could meet her needs. After having been accepted to Georgetown University and George Mason, she finally opted for George Mason, impressed not only by the cost savings but also with the quality of the education.

But even the cost of tuition at George Mason was formidable for Day because she had to pay at the out-of-state rate. “I thought this was so unfair,” she recalls. “Most of my friends [who were residents of Maryland or Virginia] were going to state institutions that cost $4,000 a semester while I was going to have to pay $12,000 a semester.” One day she mentioned her frustration to the congresswoman, who agreed that D.C. students have too few post-secondary options. Norton asked two members of her staff to draft legislation to address the problem.

When it came time to discuss the bill before a congressional subcommittee, Day volunteered for the job. In her testimony, she pointed out that most D.C. students do not go to college at all. “It’s not because they can’t or don’t want to,” she told the subcommittee, “but because they don’t have the money.” In addition to testifying before the subcommittee, she was interviewed by the media and spoke at the district’s high schools about it. She even wrote an article that appeared in the Washington Post.

Finally, on Nov. 12 of last year, her work paid off: President Clinton signed the College Access Act into law. Taking effect this fall, the law calls for the federal government to pay the difference, up to $10,000 a year, between in-state and out-of-state tuition at public colleges and universities in Maryland and Virginia for students from the District of Columbia. It also calls on the federal government to pay $2,500 toward the tuition costs of certain private colleges in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

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