Local: Education

UDC officials: Fund us like DC Public Schools

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Local,DC,Education,Lisa Gartner
The University of the District of Columbia may be the city's flagship college, but around these parts it goes by a different nickname: the 13th grade.

Ninety-six percent of students entering UDC's community college -- most hailing from the District -- require remedial classes in at least one core area. But as funding and legislation have focused on improving DC Public Schools and charter schools, top UDC officials say it's unfair that the college's budget has remained mostly flat.

"Given the overwhelming number of our students who need to make developmental progress, we are in fact an extension of DCPS, and to the extent that the city is committed to funding DCPS -- which it rightfully is -- we perhaps need to be included in that particular funding stream, so we want to be a part of that," said Jim Dyke, a member of the university's Board of Trustees and its former chairman.

"We are in a sense the 13th grade for DCPS and charter schools," echoed trustee George Vradenburg. "We ought to be considered a part of the school system in this district."

Mayor Vincent Gray is offering UDC $64.9 million for fiscal 2013 -- a $1.2 million increase over last year but substantially less than the $85.1 million the university is requesting as its community college takes steps toward independence under its budget.

Funding for the college has generally stayed level -- even the $1.2 million is for inflation -- since the 1990s. Enrollment has dropped off considerably, causing members of the community college's transition committee to criticize the amount UDC spends per student: $36,684 in the 2009-2010 school year, about 60 percent more than the median costs of its peers.

But university officials counter that the city spends more per K-12 student than anywhere but New York and New Jersey. Gray touted a 2 percent increase in the city's per-student funding formula this year, while Council Chairman Kwame Brown championed numerous education bills aimed at K-12 education.

Melissa Salmanowitz, a spokeswoman for DCPS, declined to comment on the relationship between DCPS and UDC or the college readiness of the District's high school graduates.

As reported by The Washington Examiner, the university is planning to lay off a significant number of staff to cut costs. But under the proposed budget, Allen Sessoms, the president of UDC, said the school won't be able to afford even a commencement ceremony.

"The final ingredient the university needs to begin this substantial overhaul is the District's investment in the future of the university," Sessoms said. "Without it, no amount of management and planning will be able to complete the transformation that our university deserves."

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

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