Wilson High School isn’t the only DC education institution facing a substantial cut in Mayor Bowser’s spending plan.
Earlier this month, The Washington Post published an editorial describing the University of the District of Columbia as one of DC’s “inefficient programs,” and applauding Mayor Bowser’s proposal to slash $3.5 million from its budget.
In response, acting UDC President James E. Lyons wrote to the Post’s editorial board, calling this an “unnecessary indictment” of DC’s only public university system. He goes on to describe UDC as a “pathway to the middle class by admitting more DCPS students than any other local college or university.”
ANC 3F Commissioner and Van Ness Vision Committee chair Mary Beth Ray also sees value in maintaining, if not improving, UDC’s funding. She sees the future of Van Ness intrinsically tied to UDC. Ray testified Monday before the DC Council Committee of the Whole at a 2016 budget oversight hearing. In her testimony, Ray stresses the value of UDC’s flagship campus to the Van Ness commercial area, both of which are underperforming, though improving. She commends the partnership that has evolved between UDC and the surrounding community over the past two years in working toward a more vibrant and beautiful Van Ness corridor. And she challenges the Council to fund such an important institution to DC and to Van Ness, so that both can become economic generators for the District.
You can listen to her testimony here (it begins at 01:51:55) or read it in full below.
David Bardin, also a member of the Van Ness Vision Committee, has argued in the past that chronic underfunding is one of the reasons UDC is not living up to its potential. He crafted testimony in support of funding UDC at a similar level of other public universities. He also recommends that the Department of General Services (DGS) to take over the lease for the UDC community college headquarters at 801 North Capital Street, NE. UDC can’t afford the rent on its own, and the college’s headquarters faces an expensive move.
The District does this for other public agency headquarters, he says, such as the District Department of the Environment at 1200 First Street NE. That, he says, would free up badly needed funds for community college students.
His testimony is also below.
Testimony by Mary Beth Ray, ANC Commissioner and Chair of the Van Ness Vision Committee
Committee of the Whole, UDC 2016 Fiscal Budget Oversight
April 20, 2015
Good afternoon. My name is Mary Beth Ray, and I am the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for ANC 3F3. I also chair the Van Ness Vision Committee, and I am testifying today in that capacity, in support of UDC.
As you know, UDC’s flagship campus resides in Van Ness, in ANC 3F. Our ANC started the Van Ness Vision Committee about two years ago. Our mission is to make the Van Ness corridor of Connecticut Avenue more beautiful and more economically vibrant. We work closely with key stakeholders, including Fannie Mae and WAMU, merchants like Calvert Woodley and Bread Furst, and of course UDC. UDC is a major landowner in Van Ness, and its presence helps define who we are as a neighborhood.
In short, the success of Van Ness depends on the success of UDC. Put another way, UDC’s success will determine our success. And for UDC to succeed, it must be adequately funded. Beyond our neighborhood commercial interests, does not this city want a successful public university which has the potential to be an economic generator in its own right, if given the right support?
UDC adds great value to our community. As the only urban land grant school in the US, the CAUSES program focuses on two of our generation’s key issues, how to feed the world, and sustainability. The green roofs at UDC, and the master gardener program are two ways neighbors can connect in a hands-on way. Stormwater runoff and erosion create havoc in nearby Rock Creek Park and Soapstone Valley, and UDC is exploring creative technologies to capture that water and use it to water our tree boxes.
UDC’s gorgeous performing arts center and amphitheater provide programming opportunities galore. Our events committee is already working with UDC to try to bring arts events to both venues. The new student center and terrace will provide even more programming opportunities, perhaps an art show for local artists, or a Tai Chi class sponsored by the nearby Chinese Embassy?
UDC has been generous lending its space. We have held Van Ness Vision Committee meetings there, as well as a design charette in their School of Architecture. UDC hosted a VNVC Meet and Greet for commercial property owners, merchants, city officials and others in the beautiful space overlooking Connecticut Avenue. UDC faculty, staff and students not only patronize our local merchants, but they also participate in Van Ness Vision Committee events and projects, from serving on committees, to planting daffodils, to drafting a new design for the Windom/Connecticut Avenue intersection.
In sum, we want UDC to be not just a viable school, but a successful school, and an asset to our neighborhood and city. The question before the Council is ‘what does UDC need to succeed and be a vibrant institution so that it can be a team player with the community and the city as a whole?’
Right now, neither Van Ness nor UDC are living up to potential. We want both of us to thrive. Please fund UDC thoughtfully and adequately, and give both UDC and Van Ness a chance to live up to our potential and become generators for our city’s economy. Thank you.
BEFORE THE COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
BUDGET OVERSIGHT HEARING
THE UNIVERSITY OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA (UDC)
20 APRIL 2015
Pre-Filed STATEMENT OF DAVID JONAS BARDIN
Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee,
The Council faces many worthy budget demands, I know, but please carefully evaluate the needs of our only public university system in light of its essential purposes. The University of the District of Columbia is a lifeline to many of our fellow citizens. It depends on you for adequate funding, which is indispensable to its performance – and to accomplish the Council’s – and Mayor Bowser’s – good goals for post-secondary education in the best interests of the District of Columbia as a whole.
Mayor Bowser correctly identified UDC as offering pathways to the middle class for DC residents, in her State of the District address at the Lincoln Theatre. She told us:
“For our older students, we have to turn the corner at UDC and align our Community College with the careers that will yield pathways to good paying jobs and to the middle class.” [31 March 2015]
To that end, please restore the five percent reduction proposed for the Operating Subsidy for the only public university in the District, which provides academic pathways to the middle class, and non-academic, vocational pathways to the middle class, as well as many other public services, including its land-grant and cooperative extension services.
A cut in FY16 would come at a particularly bad time, after years of inadequate budgets, when the University – including its Community College and four Flagship schools and colleges – face regional re-accreditation next year, to be followed by re-accreditation of the Law School immediately afterwards.
Moreover, escalating payments to a private landlord for the Community College headquarters and some classrooms near Union Station (at 801 North Capitol Street NE) pose an acute problem: The Board of Trustees sees these lease costs as untenable.
• Considering only their fiduciary obligations, Trustees seem poised to opt for the cheapest (but not necessarily best) option of removing Community College headquarters back west of Rock Creek Park, to the main Van Ness campus.
o That decision should engage elected officials as well as the Trustees.
o A Task Force effort is needed to reach good overall decisions – making sure they reflect careful, honest cost estimates (understood by all).
• In the meantime, the Council should direct the Mayor’s Department of General Services (DGS) to take over payments to the landlord from its budget in FY1 (just as it does for other public agency headquarters – for example those of the District Department of the Environment at 1200 First Street NE). That would free up badly needed funds for Community College students.
Last year, legislation made a one-time appropriation of one million dollars to match fund raising from private donors. If you receive satisfactory verification that the match succeeded, please appropriate a two million dollar match in FY16 – in order to stimulate more improvements in this institution’s own fund raising efforts.
In order to continue governance improvements (started under the leadership of Board of Trustees Chairperson Crider) please add two, ex officio,
members to that Board (via the Budget Support Act):
• The independent DC Chief Financial Officer – who shares in the governance of this institution with its Board of Trustees and President, but communicates only with the latter; and
• The independent DC Attorney General – who, as a Trustee, will have a good chance to convince the Board and Management that markedly more transparency can improve public support and middle management performance. Their participation on the Board will add to its prestige and clout – and reduce riskiness. (Public officials serve on boards of accredited state universities. DC public officials serve on independent agency boards. These additions will further strengthen Board governance, adding valuable perspectives on how to realize our goals of transparency, accountability, prudence, financial responsibility, and the public interest in effective, affordable public education.)
In order to come to better decisions for FY17 and beyond, please use the Budget Support Act to initiate a Task Force examination of our public post-secondary education funding:
• Distinguish funding of workforce development, academic degree programs, and other programs at UDC – such as the local match required for federal cooperative
extension service and land-grant funding.
• Consider how it is that the 50 states fund public post-secondary education – more than we do and better than we do – and draw lessons for DC.
• Ask why DC residents seeking associate’s degrees from the Community College or bachelor’s degrees from the four Flagship schools or colleges can’t become
eligible for scholarships through the DC Tuition Assistance Grant program (now limited to such degree seekers from public institutions outside DC only), run by
the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE).
• Weigh more UDC funding by OSSE and by the Department of Employment Services.
I would be happy to answer questions and work with you and your staff on these issues.