The University of the District of Columbia isn’t perfect. But it is unique and necessary part of DC life, and many of its problems stem from being chronically underfunded.
UDC is Ward 3’s largest DC governmental institution and DC’s only public university system. UDC’s community college and four flagship colleges (Arts and Sciences, Business and Public Administration, Engineering and Applied Sciences, and CAUSES – Agriculture, Urban Sustainability & Environmental Sciences) are DC’s only public colleges, and UDC’s School of Law is the only public law school in the District.
UDC offers affordable undergraduate, graduate and professional academic programs for 5,000 DC residents and hundreds of others. It offers vocational, non-academic workplace learning opportunities for thousands more. And it offers personal and community service programs – such as senior citizen fitness and master gardening – to thousands more.
UDC is a public, urban, historically black and land-grant institution. The presence of UDC students, faculty, and staff enhances diversity of west of the Park.
But District operating budgets have historically underfunded public post-secondary education as compared to the 50 states:
- Less as a proportion of combined state and local tax revenues and lottery profits;
- Less per thousand dollars of personal income; and
- Less per capita.
DC and UDC have not arrived at funding goals or budgeting formulas which would allow for reliable planning. In contrast, Mayor Tony Williams pioneered a per-pupil formula for public schools, both DCPS and charters. (DC and UDC did, however, come up with a million-dollar match campaign to encourage more private contributions to UDC.)
UDC could also help itself by proposing student performance benchmarks more attuned to its mission, student demographics and the public interest of the District as a whole. The conventional benchmarks of graduation rates for first-time-in-college, full-time undergrads do not fit a school where most undergrads study part-time and many are transfer students. So, for example, why not measure performance instead by looking to undergraduate degrees conferred per 100 full-time equivalent students, as six states do?
I plan to talk at ANC 3F’s Community Forum tonight (and next week at ANC3/4G) about three ideas:
- That the mayor and Council of the District of Columbia begin to increase base operating funding for UDC in FY16 to a level more nearly commensurate with the post-secondary funding practice of the 50 states; and
- That UDC identify performance benchmarks, appropriate to its mission and characteristics, by which elected officials and the public at large may judge its progress, together with transparent disclosure of performance; and
- That before the next, FY17 budget cycle the District and UDC agree on a stable, predictable funding approach.
Mayor Bowser will send her first, FY16 budget to the Council at the beginning of April and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson will hold a public hearing about UDC’s portion on April 20th, at 2 p.m. in Room 412 at the Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Avenue). To testify, contact Taneka Miller at 202-724-4865 or firstname.lastname@example.org.