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Gray Excludes Funds For College Scholarship Program From 2015 Budget

Mayor Vincent Gray's 2015 budget, which is being unveiled today, includes funds for many programs and projects, but one thing that won't be included in the $6.79 billion spending plan is a program passed by the D.C. Council that would offer qualifying residents up to $7,500 a year to pay for college.

According to budget officials, Gray chose to exclude funds to pay for the Promise Act, which was passed by the Council earlier this year, over concerns that it would endanger the Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG), a federally funded program that offers up to $10,000 a year to D.C. students to attend out-of-state public universities or up to $2,500 a year for private universities in the area.

After Council member David Catania (I-At Large) introduced the Promise Act in late 2013, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton wrote that it would threaten funding for TAG, which has benefited some 5,000 students per year with $317 million in federal funding since its inception in 2000.

Those concerns led Catania to amend the bill by dropping the top annual award from $12,000 to $7,500 and limiting the universities where it could be used, but the changes weren't enough to assuage Gray's concerns over TAG's survival.

"The mayor didn't want to be known as the guy who killed D.C. TAG," said a senior aide to Gray, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Catania, who chairs the Council's education committee and is running for mayor as an independent, could still restore funding for the program when the Council receives and makes changes to Gray's budget. The program is expected to cost $7.5 million in its first year, with the price tag rising to $20 million by 2017.

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