Local: Education

UDC layoffs: 'Everything's on the table'

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Local,DC,Education,Lisa Gartner

The University of the District of Columbia is slated to announce within the next two weeks a plan for widescale layoffs of faculty and staff as part of an effort to fix the university's finances and help its community college's bid for independence.

The layoffs are part of a "right-sizing effort" formally recommended by the UDC Community College Transition to Independence Advisory Board in a report released Wednesday, although a university task force has been sorting through the layoff decisions for months. The plan should be released Oct. 1.

Right now, the District's only community college is a part of UDC. But Mayor Vincent Gray has argued that separating the schools would allow faculty to focus on their different needs. That includes a focus on job training for the community college.

But the community college's effort to secure independent accreditation is hurt by its host university's bleak financial situation, officials said Wednesday.

"I don't think anyone disputes it, the strength of UDC is not what it should be," said Walter Smith, chairman of the transition committee and executive director of advocacy group DC Appleseed. "Changes need to be made at the university in order to get its house in order."

In 2009-10, UDC's total expenditure per full-time student was $36,684, or about 60 percent higher than the median cost of peer institutions. For the past three years, the university has run a deficit. But with only $8 million now available in reserves -- compared with the typical $50 million for a college UDC's size -- the school faces trouble in the near future.

Alan Etter, a spokesman for the university, said he was not aware of which departments were vulnerable to layoffs or how many of 246 faculty members would lose their jobs. "I think everything's on the table," Etter said.

Etter also declined to comment on why the UDC's Board of Trustees and President Allen Sessoms were absent from the transition report's release on Wednesday, organized by the mayor in the basement of city hall.

But a university official familiar with the situation said no one from UDC was invited to the announcement.

"This has really been a political exercise," said the official, who spoke on background for fear of retaliation. "The mayor says he wants an independent community college, and there's an effort to do it. Whether that's the best way to [fix both schools] or not, who knows."

A mayoral aide said on background that UDC's point person on the advisory board wasn't invited because the city knew she'd be out of town. Other UDC officials weren't invited because the mayor's office "didn't want to put them on the spot" about the recommendations and give the impression that UDC and its board had fully agreed to everything in the report.

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

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