City Desk

UDC Tuition Hikes: Get Over It

Yesterday, students at the University of the District of Columbia marched and camped in at the school's Van Ness campus to protest steep hikes in the school's tuition. Today the Board of Trustees for the University of the District of Columbia is voting on that plan, which would raise tuition for students in four-year programs from about $3,800 to $7,000 yearly.

Sounds shocking, but a few things don't get mentioned, or get mentioned very briefly, in most press accounts.

First off, UDC has never made a very good distinction between its two-year community college and workforce development programs and its four-year baccalaureate degree-granting programs. The tuition hike is part of a plan to improve that situation. Second, this tuition hikes would only affect the four-year students. Under the new plan, students enrolled in two-year, community college classes would pay the old rate—$3,000.

While it's noble to speak of UDC's mission as providing a "quality and affordable education for residents of the District of Columbia"—as UDC student Joshua Lopez told WaPo this week—it's very hard to argue is that all its students are getting a quality education now. And $7,000 in-state yearly for a college degree still qualifies as affordable, compared to other state universities in this part of the country.

LL sees the facts this way: UDC has continually underwhelmed throughout its 35-year history, in no small part because of money. It's done only token, if any, private fundraising, it's never managed its budget well, and, especially, during the control board era, it's never been given the operating subsidy it needs.

Now UDC's programs and reputation aren't going to improve immediately, and students may not decide that $7,000 for a UDC education is worth it. But students can vote with their feet: Thanks to the federally funded Tuition Assistance Grants, D.C. residents can attend any public university at in-state prices. Or they can remain in community college programs.

UDC President Allen Sessoms doesn't expect that to happen, though. In an interview with LL earlier this month, he said, thanks to the economy and changes in programs, he expected UDC's enrollment to rise from about 5,500 this year to about 7,000—4,000 in four-year degree programs, the rest in community college classes.

Lest LL open himself up for ad hominem attacks, some full disclosure here—LL attended a very expensive private university, financed largely by his parents' savings. So he probably isn't the guy to stand up and say to UDC students: Hey, you need to take on a whole bunch more debt!

But the reality is that the status quo can't support making UDC what it needs to be. The alumni and other private support isn't there; the governmental support certainly isn't going to improve anytime soon, so if UDC is ever going to improve, things have to start with tuition.

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  • Dave McKenna

    MdB: you're my hero, but clearly you're still bitter that michael graham left your hoyas for the UDC Firebirds way back when you were, well, in the womb. get over it. i'm with the protesters...

  • Malarie

    Well stated. It's a privilege, not a right, to go to college. My family shelled out $35,000 a year for my college expenses in Philly. $7,000, even on a low income, is affordable. Financial aid, loans, grants, ever heard of them? Most students across the country have college loans after they graduate; suck it up and move on. You don't have enough money to pay 7k for college, but yet you still live in one of the most expensive cities - I moved here from Philly and my rent, for a smaller apartment, has almost tripled. Move out of town if you can't afford it.

  • Dave McKenna

    you wrote: "My family shelled out $35,000 a year for my college expenses in Philly. $7,000, even on a low income, is affordable."

    And you know this how?

    All you need to know about those "two Americas" John Edwards spoke of between trysts is right there in Malarie's hateful, naive post.

    I'd prefer if the UDC protesters stay and you left town, Malarie. Go back and boo Santa Claus. I'm guessing your parents will "shell out" for the move.

  • Split the Difference

    I think the best response falls somewhere in between Dave and LL's...

    First, UDC students SHOULD protest: the quality of their education is awful and they should not stand for it. They especially should not stand for paying more for the same abysmal programs.

    Second, LL needs to check his math: despite proverbial wisdom, UDC's per-student funding levels are relatively high among city universities - many of which perform much better. Don't believe the hype!

    Third, students should be questioning the rationale behind the CC/4yr split. Sure, DC needs a community college. But - with their record of "success" - should UDC really be put in charge of it? Maybe, maybe not. But, more importantly - should the four year students really have to pay for it? Cause that's what's happening now...UDC knows the Council won't shell out a bunch of new money for a second school, so they're turning to 4yr students for extra funding. That doesn't seem fair unless specific commitments about how the 4yr programs will be improved come with it...

    UDC is cheap, but not cheap enough for all to afford...

  • Calisha

    Malarie, it's people like you moving into the city that make long-time residents resent newcomers. Your parents paid for your education, for you it was a privilege. For others, it's a necessity because they don't have parents to fall back on or who will pay for everything. And they can't depend on high paying jobs after coming out of UDC. As Dave said, please go back to Philly. The reason this city is so expensive is because of this little thing called gentrification--you should read up on it. The people would rather live and go to school in affordable places, but not everyone was born with a silver spoon in their mouths nor can they just pick up and move whenever rich people move in and decide they shouldn't be allowed to live in the same vicinity.

  • Calisha

    Just to add-- ALL of DC schools were allowed to go to shit over the years (of course, people like Malarie don't care about the places they move into). This was especially the case under Mayor Williams, who spent more time trying to get more people to move into the city than on providing quality education to the people in the city.

  • Mike DeBonis

    Jeez, lay off Malarie---you can yell at me a little bit too!

  • Calisha

    No one's yelling.

    Malarie's not helpless. He/She was intelligent enough to make the argument, they're probaly capable of taking counter arguments and defending against them.

    I assume you know that you're allowed to disagree as well and state your opinion.

  • ChangeTheTone


    When you make ad hominem attacks, it makes it difficult for anyone to take you seriously. You bring up some good points, but they get lost in your finger pointing.

    Want to change people's minds? Explain what the problems are and suggest how you think they should be solved. Just blaming all the folks who've moved here in the past ten years doesn't solve anything. What do you want - all the new people to move away? Keep in mind that all those rich folks brought a lot of tax dollars to this city that we didn't have when the city was broke in the 90s. Gentrification aside, there are some good things that happened because of the new folks.

    Don't fall into the trap of playing the victim. Be proactive and empowered and suggest some concrete solutions to help our city move forward.

    How do you think we should improve our schools?

  • MW

    As a fifth generation native Washingtonian and 3rd generation alumna of UDC, I find this all very sad. What I find most interesting, however, is that no one considers the fact that the vast majority of the people in positions to make a decision affecting Washingtonians and UCD students; in particular, are neither native Washingtonians nor UDC alumni.

    The issue of UDC is, always has been, and probably will continue to be until the city is completely gentrified because of the carpet baggers (TRANSLATION: those who come here to get rich or richer on the backs of the poor and then leave with a golden parachute).

  • Kristel

    In reply to the Tuition Hikes: Get Over It article, no, students should not get over it, matter of fact we will not get over it. Do you know about the composition of the student population at UDC? Do you know how many single parents that only work part time attend the only public university in the District? If you take into consideration these numbers as well as the rest of the demographics of the university, NO, $7,000 every semester is not affordable. A single parent who already receives government assistance for their basic necessities does not have $7,000 dollars or a total of $14,000 on a yearly basis lying around the house. I do believe that improvements should be made, and if we as students want something better than they should be willing to loosen up the pocket, but unfortunately the money that we have payed in the past has not been given any productive use, and if it has, we have yet to see improvement. How can we trust our out of pocket money to an administration that cannot even manage government given money that should have been more controlled and monitored? Education should be made free or affordable to everyone, especially when it is under the name of "public". do not know what affordable is, because you did not afford your own education, your parents did. Come talk to me about affordable when you have to work a full time job, pay rent, pay for food, utilities, and pay a $7,000 tuition out of pocket every semester for your goal of having a degree. You cannot compare everyone else's reality to yours and therefore assume that everyone has the capacity to pay whatever a school asks you to pay when you are not even seeing any improvement with previous increases, and also when you hear teachers complaining about not getting paid. Unaffordable education is merely a tactic to keep the larger population ignorant. "The ignorance of the many is the power of the few." Students should not get over it.

  • mm

    I was a UDC undergraduate from 2003-2005. I've even participated in school activities. Honestly I can say that UDC was the most disgusting school I've ever attended. I went there after high school because I assumed it was a good school like it was in the 70's. I spent an entire semester looking for my guidence councilor. I think I've only seen her once the entire school year.The programs at the school are the worse I've seen. A big number of the undergraduates were only enrolled there for the refund, and the others made up their minds to transfer after their grade point came up. The teachers were not helpful, but wrather disrespectful. The facility was falling apart. Students standing on the plaza smoking blunts. Writing in the bathrooms calling their own school, University for Dumb Children. UDC was only temporary for me because now that my gpa has gone up, I'm transfering. Why pay all that money for a school full of staff that is in it for the doe? Hopefully UDC can get it together.

  • Land Grant

    UDC represents an enormous wasted opportunity in this city. Instead of competently executing the unique mission of a land-grant university, updating and urbanizing that mission to serve DC's population as a whole, UDC instead is so inclusive that it's meaningless. Thus, students with initiative and dedication but no alternative get lost in the shuffle, and end up with a degree (maybe -- the graduation rate is abysmal) that very few respect. Don't hate the messenger.

  • Kylie

    Did you ever follow up to see if enrollment fell. My arguement is there is no client for UDC at the higher cost.

    For its ranking I would simply go to NOVA, PGC, Bowie---if I could afford such rates U of Maryland is so much better.

    You can't take a McDonald's hamburger and start charging 15 bucks and think you are going to call it gourmet. No.