Dear PoPville – Anyone Know About Receiving in-state tuition rates for DC residents?

Photo by PoPville flickr user ekelly80

Dear PoPville,

Recently I’ve had the urge to continue my education pursue a Ph.D in economics. I am a nine-year resident of DC and have no desire to leave the District for my education. At the same time I work full-time and need to remain employed to sustain my mortgage payments, bills etc. For this reason I will not be eligible for research or teaching assistantships. There are a few programs I am interested in, but I can’t afford private schools in DC nor out-of-state tuition.

Has anyone in the community been successful in receiving in-state tuition rates at one of the areas public universities (UMD, GMU)? I have started to investigate this, but have learned that DC residents don’t have reciprocity in public universities in the metro area.

I have learned about the DCTAG grant funded by the DC gov, but this is only available for undergraduate studies.

Any collective information from POPville on this subject would be helpful.


58 Comment

  • It’s the DC CAP program. You probably aren’t eligible.

  • Yeah… there’s no reciprocity. If you want the in-state rates, move to Clarendon or Silver Spring.

    • I realize that sounds flippant, but it may actually make sense for you. The in-state rate is roughly half the out-of-state rate, so you might save thousands of dollars by moving.

    • I posted a longer comment, but it’s being held up (I think) because I included a link.
      I have a Ph.D. in Econ – it’s a full time job that takes 5 or 6 years. You can’t do it while working another job. But they pay you a stipend while you work, so you won’t starve.

      For a helpful primer, Google “So, you want to go to grad school in Economics?”

  • I’m taking a grad class at UMD, and no way they were giving me in state tuition rates.

  • There is no ability to get in-state tuition unless you are a graduate of a DC high school.

  • Google “DC CAP Program”

  • Whatever you do, make sure you move to VA or MD before you apply to university. If you apply while you still have a DC address, it’s nearly impossible to get in-state tuition, even after you move to VA/MD. VA is much worse about this than MD, I’ve been told. Best to avoid and move first.

  • Hi,

    I have a Ph.D. in Economics (2011), and I have good news and bad news for you.

    The good news is that you don’t pay them, they pay you. Graduate programs in economics typically offer a stipend between $10,000 and $25,000.

    The bad news is that it’s not easy, and there’s no way you could complete the work while working another job. An Econ Ph.D. is a full-time job for 5 or 6 years, and a lot of people hate it and drop out after a few months. It’s not like getting an executive MBA or taking night classes.

    There’s no way on earth GMU or UMD, which both have excellent PhD programs, is going to bend these rules for you.

    You should do some background reading (e.g.

    Lastly, it’s not about money. Getting a Ph.D. doesn’t increase your lifetime earnings relative to a one-year masters degree or an MBA. Don’t go through the hell of a PhD program unless you actually enjoy the process.

    Good luck on your journey!

    – Chops

    • A phd in economics requires a good mathematics background beyond calculus, such as measure theory etc, otherwise you won’t be able to understand the papers let alone writing them. You should make sure you can handle that by perhaps taking a few of the required courses first to test the waters. If you do well in those courses, you can transfer the credits later. If advanced math is not for you, MBA is a better degree.

      • This seems like a wise suggestion, particulary if you’ve been out of school for awhile.

        As a former math/econ double major out of school for a number of years (and working in an industry where I don’t use those skills on a daily basis) the thought of anything involving something like measure theory or stochastic calculus makes my head hurt.

  • May I ask what’s prompting your desire for a Ph.D. in economics?

    Not sure what the job market for Ph.D.s in economics is like, but I know in the humanities it’s very, very bad. If a graduate degree (do you already have a master’s?) would give you a leg up at your job, then it might make good sense.

    However, if it’s purely for your own interest/edification, I’d caution you that it’s a lot of time and effort, and it’s much, much more intense than undergraduate study.

    • I didn’t mean to sound like a wet blanket, BTW. Just be sure you know what you’re getting into!

    • ah

      Actually, good Ph.D. economists have a lot of options available to them that pay well. Businesses pay for economists, not humanists.

      • I don’t doubt it — I just think that anyone planning to do a graduate degree in ANY field needs to have a clear idea beforehand of what his/her job options are with that degree, what the markets are like for these job options, how long it will take, how much it will cost (both in terms of $ and of opportunity cost), etc.

  • I’m finishing up a grad program at UMD and they will not give me in-state tuition. I’m going part time (2 classes at a time) and it costs about $10K more per year to be a DC resident.

  • Just tell them you’re an illegal alien (oops, I mean undocumented resident) and you’ll get a great deal!

    • You’re an idiot, states that allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition require their parents to report at least 3 years in taxes in that state, and you have to graduate from a highschool in that state.

  • You might want to be wary of any doctoral program that doesn’t provide full tuition remission plus a stipend of $20,000 or so. There are a lot of scam programs out there, but any program that places well in academic markets should offer that.

    • UMD has one of the best Economics PhD programs in the country. You’ll be well placed to be a working economist at the Fed, IMF, Treasury, or World Bank, or a Wall Street bank afterwards. Salaries start at $125K and go waaaaaaaaaaay up from there.

      • Salaries for economists at the Fed start at $89k, not $125k. I don’t know why anyone would want a PhD in Econ, unless that’s something that really interests you. You’re not going to get the same salary increase you would with an MBA or other Master’s degree, and it’s going to take far far longer. Any of those super high salaries you see for an economist are for someone with 10-15 years of experience, not someone straight out of a PhD program.

      • Don’t forget Millennium Challenge Corporation, tons of PhD Economists there. Now there’s a fun place to work!

    • True, but then you need to be a full-time grad student and work as a TA or RA. Sounds like the OP is better off financially to keep the current job and pay out of pocket for the tuition.

    • When I was at the University of Maryland for their graduate program in English, my stipend was $10,500/year.

      Granted, that was 12 years ago, but I would be surprised if U-Md. now offered a $20K stipend. (Would be happy to learn otherwise, though!)

      My rent — in supposedly “subsidized” graduate student housing — ate up 70% of my stipend.

      • stipends at UMD vary significantly depending on the funding of the department. also, the minimum stipend as of 4 years ago was around $14,000 for a full time graduate assistant, and that hasn’t gone up with cost of living due to budget restrictions. while a majority of the graduate students i know made around 14k, graduate students in some departments made considerably more. i don’t know about econ grad students, but MBA students and engineering grads make above the minimum, while those in the humanities tend to be paid around the minimum.

        also, i would second (or third, or whatever) the posters above on examining your reasoning for getting a phd. having recently graduated, i can tell you that if you’re not in it for the right reasons (whatever those are) it will be a miserable process.

        finally, i also second the recommendation to move to maryland (or virginia) prior to applying, if you want to get in-state tuition. the process of proving residency, at least at UMD, takes a lot of work and you have to somehow prove that you moved to MD for a reason other than to attend school.

  • You have to live in MD for 12 consecutive months before you can register for classes and receive in-state tuition. I think in VA it is 12 months before the first day of classes. I don’t think there is any way for DC residents to get around that.

  • I was in a PHD program at UMD, and they wouldn’t give me in-state tuition, even though I was paying for the program while working at the same time and doing a lot of “free” research work for a professor. I do know of some grad students who got in full time and got stipends, and then moved to DC, and kept their stipends..

  • saf

    Have you thought of getting a university job? Tuition benefits are a lovely thing.

    • Thanks for the comments, and I think this is the best suggestion yet. However, I have a job that I enjoy, that is flexable enough for studies and pays well. I posted this because I was sure there was someone out there that had beat the system and managed to get in-state tuition from DC. Frankly I find it rediculous that people in my situation in any state in the country can access a similar program that I am interested in at a Public University tuition rate. We live in DC, paying high taxes, and yet have no access to higher education.

      I have already paid high private school tuition rates for a Masters in DC and can’t currently afford to do so for a doctorate. Of course, I am willing to make adjustments, but I am not willing to sell/rent my house and move my family so that I can go to school. I’m familiar with the challanges of the degree I would like to pursue, but until now I did not realize how difficult it would be to pay for it withouth going into much debt.

      • Unfortunately, I have no suggestions, but I feel your pain. When I moved here, I realized how spoiled I’d been to live in New York City for 13 years and have access to numerous CUNY campuses with a wide variety of programs and scheduling options, and relatively cheap in-city tuition rates. (I did my first masters at night and was halfway towards a second before I had to move here for work.) It’s enormously frustrating that as DC residents we have basically no options for public higher education, other than UDC about which I’ve heard nothing but bad things (but if anyone’s had a different experience, please feel free to contradict me!)

        Granted, DC is much smaller than New York and obviously doesn’t have the resident population to support 20+ public college campuses, but still…an affordable option or two (or reciprocity with MD/VA) would be nice.

      • saf

        I see the word “family” in your comment. Your spouse/partner having university employment would also get you tuition benefits. And if you have kids going to college soon, could get them tuition benefits too.

        (Please note, if you are interested in Georgetown, none of this applies. They have lousy tuition benefits.)

  • I’m a current PhD student at UMD (not in Econ). Minimum stipends are almost $19K a year for grad students who work as a Teaching Asst, Graduate Asst, or Research Asst 20 for hrs a week.

    You might also want to look into whether or not UMD, or other Econ PhD programs, even accept part time students. Many programs are only accepting full time students nowadays for PhD programs.

    • Thanks for the suggestion. I have worked with a faculty member at UMD for years and have written a few grants for international socio-economic work together. While I am not able to do an assistantship for him, basically my day job is servicing the work that we do together anyway.

      At this point I am only concerned about how to cover tuition. Has anyone used outside grants to pay for thier education? Does this create a conflict of interest?

      • I had a friend that had a part time research asst in a phd program for soil chemistry with his master’s thesis advisor. So instead of 20k/year stipend, he got 10k/year, and they only remissed 6 credits (you have to be 12 credits to be considered full time). The good thing was that he was able to keep his full time job and did research at night and during the weekends. I think it all depends on if you can find an advisor who is willing to work with you. I am in a phd program in engineering and funded by an outside fellowship, it’s pretty common for engineering but I’m not sure for econ. I would suggest working with your current faculty member to see if you can come up with a topic that is pretty autonomous and in a field that you are already familiar with.

  • I too am a PhD student at UMD, but the stipends vary by department. I teach my own class (20 hours a week), but my stipend is around $16000. They’ll give you in-state tuition as well as tuition remission if you go full time (and they give you funding), so my total mandatory fees come out to about $380 a semester. I’m sure economics provides a better stipend that does my department (political science).

  • I know this isn’t the most moral thing to do, but can you use a friend’s/relative’s address to establish residency in Maryland? Change payroll, pay taxes, register your car, etc to an address in MD? It would, of course, be a bit of a hassle but would save you a lot of scratch. 🙂

  • novadancer

    I know you aren’t interest in a job change. But for anyone else in a similar situation, I would recommend working at a University (or at a minimum checking out the job board). I’ve been at UMD for 2 years and love it. Flexible work schedule, awesome benefits (they cover 90% of 3 rounds of IVF ) besides obvious tuition benefits, and the pay is very competitive (although I think it depends on what dept you work in).

  • NSF gives out grants for getting a PhD in Economics (among other disciplines). They’re competitive, but it’s worth checking out – especially since it sounds like you have a sense for the type of research you’d like to do. Your experience may give you a leg up. That said, I’m not sure if there are conditions on working full time and/or if the grant is only for a certain number of years. Either way, I’d check it out. I just did a quick search, and this might be the right link for the program:

  • I just started a doctorate after several years struggling with the same question. There aren’t any doctoral level tuition reciprocity programs in the area, and while my program (which, like many, is full-time only) gave me a stipend, it covers about half of my expenses (I also have a mortgage and grown-up responsibilities). In the end, I saved aggressively and reduced my spending for two years; that, plus my stipend, covers me for 2/3 of school/living costs, and I’ve switched to part-time work that should cover the rest.

    Regarding grants, I’m looking at several possibilities through my school and field, but they were all for people who are already in programs and performing well. Foundations seem less willing to make awards to doctoral students who haven’t proven themselves.

    Something to consider: I initially wanted to keep working, but am part-time work is really giving me time to take advantage of research, networking and other cool opportunities that I wouldn’t have room for with full time school and work. I’d recommend considering it; you’ll be back in the full-time workforce soon, and for a long time.

  • Thanks for the beautiful photo of Berkeley College at Yale. How I miss those happy, golden by-gone days….

  • Shout out to all the Econ PhDs in PoPville! It’s an interesting field, butane you can do a lot of things with it. I think most would agree its a pretty long, difficult slog to get the degree, though.

  • Your question concerns me — MD and GMU have very different Econ programs (doesn’t GMU follow the Austrian school philosophy? My coworker got his master’s there and said they used very little math – whereas UMCP is highly competitive and their admissions page says they will not even consider your application unless you have taken the full range of recommended math classes)

    So, my first questions would be what kind of economics would you like to study, what kind of math background do you have, and is a PhD necessary for you or is an MA sufficient. I work full-time and I recently enrolled in GW’s Econ PhD program as an MA student — my job pays for the classes and MA students take 2 classes per semester with an estimated completion time of 2.5 years, with the option to transfer into the PhD program at a later time. A former coworker of mine just started in American U’s Econ PhD program and the classes are in the afternoon/evenings so they are conducive to working part-time, but teaching assistants at both AU and GW are forbidden from having outside work and when my friend did the math, the stipend plus tuition remission made her better off than continuing to work full time. The other option for an Econ MA is the applied economics program at JHU (in DC) but it’s not going to be as technical as a PhD program.

    When it comes down to it, you’re likely to have to make some compromises if you really want to get your PhD — DC is an expensive place to live so I sympathize with your situation (I thought about it for several years before taking the plunge this fall, and if federal budgets are cut I may very well have to pay for most of it out of pocket, and I’ve been saving for several years so that I could pay for it all if I needed to). You can always take out loans — just make sure you know which degree you want to get, where the best place is for you to go (and be admitted) given your background and research interests, and talk to people at that school to find out how other students have funded their education — I’m sure you’re not the first person to be in this situation, good luck!

  • I am in the same situation … I am working on my Ph.D at GMU, while working a full time job. I also live in the district. I remember having the same frustration. I am doing it by taking one course a semester…. slowly but surely. My program of study requires 72 hours, and I received 30 hours from my masters transfer. So that cut a big chunk of. Lastly… I found something weird about “special contracts” which gives you in-state via your employer in Virginia. I don’t know if the same thing exists for Maryland. Good luck.

  • I got a M.S. degree in biology at UMD. I lived in NY when I applied to the school, and later moved to DC. I was offered a teaching assistantship which paid a stipend ($16k for the academic year in 2005) and paid tuition up to 10 credits per semester.

  • I live in DC and attend grad school at UMD. I pay out of state tuition.

  • If your graduate studies are not worth what you are going to have to pay be it in state or out of state then I would NOT recommend pursuing a graduate degree. It will take years and lots of pain and unless you know it is exactly what you want to do or know it will be financially worth it then it is not a good path for you. I say this holding multiple graduate degrees myself.

  • My fiancee is a PhD student at UMd right now and we live in the District. Thankfully she is funded (to the tune of 16k per year) and I have a regular job. That just barely allows us to pay our monthly bills. Anyways, we have for a long time been thinking of creating some sort of a stink about this at the Council. My fiancee wanted to do her PhD (education) in the district, but UDC doesn’t offer anything. Thankfully she is funded, but it’s a load of crap that UMd and GMU don’t offer some sort of in-state tuition benefit with the district. They get to use our facilities, intern at our institutions, drive on our roads, etc etc etc. The fact that the district has to pay (via DC TAG) is just laughable. How much would it cost for these universities to offer in-state tuition?

    Anyways, if you’re actually interested in doing something about this please let me know via the forum. I think it’s high time we actually get on this and make a difference.

    • Sam:

      I am ready to raise a stink about this. I’m about to start drafting an op-ed about the subject of reciprocity for DC residents. I realize that many of the comments on this posting are the current reality of pursuing education in DC, but it clearly is not this challanging in any other city in the country. I’m glad to hear your ideas for raising this to the City Council.

  • you can definitely get outside grant/scholarships. I spent every waking minute of my first semester in grad school applying for scholarships (I was already getting a TA stipend, etc from the university) and got so many that I ended up with enough net profits from grad school that it was enough to put a downpayment on my house. And this was while going to private university in NYC, where the cost of living was astronomical.

    Do your research, and apply to every single scholarship you find, regardless of how related it is to your field. I wrote so many essays telling people that I wanted to be a: 1) economist, 2) hospital administrator, 3) research professional, 4) dancer, etc etc that eventually I had to win something!

  • Your situation is one of the reasons why 10 years ago I opted not to relocate to the District. I knew that furthering my education was an eventual reality, and a DC move would have seriously limited my options and increased my costs.

  • I used it twice in undergrad. That’s when the program first started. Not sure if the rules have changed, but then it was participating colleges/universities public or private (in or outside of DC) that were willing to accept DCTAG. Then it was only offered to undergraduates and (I think) those pursuing a masters. The amount you received on a grant was different from private vs. public. I went to a private university (in DC) and only received $2,500 for the whole year, each time I used it. Wasn’t much but it helped! Again, that was when the program first started around 1999/2000. Here’s info on DC TAG…. not sure if Ph.D studies are covered but you can check.

  • Or yes… DCCAP… sorry.. just re-read.. saw that you know about DCTag…..

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