Some parents fear that a DC-managed federally funded tuition assistance program will unexpectedly not be there to provide funding for their children's colleges this fall. The District assures it will.
WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- This fall, Dierra Bynum-Reid will be entering her third year at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. At least, she hopes.
Bynum-Reid is one of thousands of D.C. residents who have benefited from D.C. Tuition Assistance Grants or TAG, a federally funded grant that covers the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition.
She recently received her annual confirmation letter from the District that read, in part, "You have been deemed eligible for dc tag funding for the 2014/2015 academic year."
That was a slight change from letters of previous years.
"They did not explain the difference between eligibility and funding," said Deidra Bynum, Bynum-Reid's mother.
"In the past they let you know an exact amount of how much you're going to be getting. It would tell you so the school knew you had 'X' amount of dollars coming in. The way the had it worded this time is, the funds will be determined, we're not going to give you a specific amount," explained Sandra May-Key, another parent whose child receives TAG assistance.
Bynum was alerted by UNC-Greensboro that had not received a payment or promise of a specific amount of funds from the District Office of the State Superintendent of Education, OSSE, who manages and distributes the federal funds once they are appropriated by Congress.
"That alarmed the administrations at her particular school and they're saying that that's not saying that they're promised the funds and so they're not willing to allow her to come back to school unless she's funded and not just eligible," said Bynum.
The District admits that the wording of the letter changed from years past because, as the letter states, "The exact amount of your award for the 2014/2015 academic year has not been determined at this time."
Meanwhile, parents who rely on the funds worry that they may be forced to cover tuition out of pocket, something some cannot afford to do on such short notice.
"It's scary because I know, not only me, but a lot of my friends they bank on federal funding and if they're not able to get it that means they won't be able to go back to school," said Bynum-Reid.
OSSE officials assured that the federal funds are coming and that once congress approves its 2015 fiscal year budget, schools will get paid.
Staffers for several DC Councilmembers tell WUSA9 that this is all a matter of mis-communication, or lack thereof.
Bynum suggested that, if the funds are in fact inevitable as the District said, there's one thing left for the District to do:
"Send another letter to the schools, changing the wording and guaranteeing the funding," said Bynum.
The OSSE assured that they will keep parents and students posted on the progress of their funds.