More than 100 testify against UDC's 'right-sizing' plans

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Photo - The University of the District of Columbia (Examiner file photo)
The University of the District of Columbia (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Alan Blinder

Supporters of the University of the District of Columbia Community College pleaded Thursday with city lawmakers to keep campuses throughout the city open, revolting against the flagship school's plans to cut costs after years of financial trouble.

"This class is the only thing that keeps me going," said Terentia Valentine, who was one of the more than 80 students who planned to testify before the D.C. Council Committee on Jobs and Workforce Development. "Please keep these programs in our community where there is a great need among the residents."

In a "right-sizing" plan released earlier this month, UDC's Board of Trustees proposed slashing programs, cutting jobs and shuttering the community college's campuses that are sprinkled throughout the District.

UDC, which has an enrollment of 4,650 students, has taken heavy criticism for its financial state. The school spends more than $35,000 annually per student, a figure that's 66 percent higher than that of comparable institutions.

Under the right-sizing plan, that number would fall to about $28,500.

And although the strategy, which has not been formally approved, is broad and calls for significant changes at UDC's main campus in Van Ness, the threat of relocating community college courses to the Northwest Washington facility drew the most attention Thursday.

"UDC should be right-sized, but the community college should be left alone," Regina James, an advisory neighborhood commissioner, told lawmakers. "It's working."

A spokesman for Mayor Vincent Gray said the administration was still reviewing the UDC proposal and had made no decisions about whether to pursue a consolidation of the community college.

But a city official familiar with the mayor's thinking, who requested anonymity to speak about ongoing policy deliberations, said Gray was unlikely to endorse that part of UDC's strategy.

"Moving the community college just doesn't make sense," the official said.

The few legislators who attended the lengthy session -- nearly 130 people signed up to testify -- also said they were underwhelmed by the right-sizing plan.

"I certainly wouldn't call it a joke," at-large Councilman Michael Brown told The Washington Examiner. "But it didn't really answer any of the essential questions."

He also said the prospect of reducing the community college's reach to help the broader UDC wasn't appealing.

"The right-sizing plan should not be balanced or done on the back of the community college," he said.

Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry, a longtime UDC booster, was more blunt and called the plan "the worst proposal since the [D.C. Financial] Control Board."

John Hill, a member of an advisory committee that studied UDC's relationship with its community college, said he was worried the focus on community colleges would undermine the larger issues facing the school.

"We seem to have shifted the conversation," said Hill, who urged city leaders to take a close look at "bloated operations at the flagship."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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