WASHINGTON – Maryland public universities hope to jump-start lagging enrollment of Washington, D.C., students under a new measure that will let District residents attend college in Maryland and Virginia at in-state tuition rates.
Sponsors of the D.C. College Access Act said they expect President Clinton to sign it into law this weekend. The bill sets aside $17 million in federal funds to cover the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for District residents who are accepted into either of the two state university systems.
Colleges in the nearby Maryland suburbs are seizing on the bill as a chance to boost anemic enrollment of D.C. students. The University of Maryland College Park has already started recruiting in the District and other area schools said they are likely to follow suit soon.
“It’s such an advantage for D.C. students, we thought it was a natural place to recruit more heavily,” said Linda Clement, assistant vice president and director of undergraduate admissions at College Park.
A spokeswoman for the city’s public college, the University of the District of Columbia, declined to comment Friday on the potential raid on its student pool by Maryland schools.
Only about 1 percent of the undergraduates currently enrolled in the University System of Maryland list the District as their “area of origin,” said Chris Hart, a system spokesman.
The College Park campus and neighboring University of Maryland University College had the highest percentage of District residents in 1998. Of the 832 District residents attending a public college in the state, about 45 percent were at University College and 25 percent were at College Park.
College Park officials began recruiting District students last year, talking to more school guidance counselors and attending more D.C. college fairs in hopes of landing more District students, said Clement.
University College officials said they hope to significantly increase D.C. enrollment with more advertising in the area. They could not predict how many more students might enroll as a result of the new law.
“We hope (the bill) will represent a significant increase, but it depends on how heavily we recruit,” said David Freeman, a University College spokesman. “I expect we will recruit specifically for D.C. residents based on this change.”
Officials from historically black Bowie State University also plan to increase recruiting in the District after the bill is signed. Interim President Wendell Holloway said students in the majority-black District should be attracted to Bowie’s technology and teaching programs, fields in which the school is trying to boost minority participation.
“This gives D.C. students the opportunity to get into a first-class program in teacher education, especially since there are low teacher rates in D.C. and Maryland,” he said.
Holloway, who grew up in the District, said that city students historically avoided Maryland colleges because they “weren’t that hospitable” to blacks, but he hopes now to develop a “warm relationship” with the District.
“We don’t have that tradition established between D.C. and Maryland,” said Holloway.