Universities Play Critical Role in City's Life

Barrington M. Salmon | 3/14/2012, 11:31 a.m.

"We have 7,000 full-time and part-time employees, many of whom live in the District," he said. "We have a $342 million effect on the local economy and are critically important to the quality of life in the city ... We have 100 different programs ... and Howard University Hospital served more than 150,000 patients who are residents in 2010."

"[The hospital] gave $40 million of uncompensated care to the community. This is something we do, not because it's a good business model, but because it's part of the service to the community."

Knapp, who became George Washington University president in 2007, spoke about the diversity and strength of the partnership he and the university has fostered with the city.

"Universities are incredibly important to the flourishing future in D.C. and will become even more so," he said in answer to whether his university is doing enough.

He cited partnerships with city officials, School without Walls, Duke Ellington [School of the Arts] and the "rapidly developing partnership with Ballou Senior High School."

"My concern is that higher taxes would increasingly hinder investment in projects and programs here," he said.

Knapp, whose university is celebrating its 100th anniversary at the Foggy Bottom campus in Northwest, said his students give 150,000 hours of volunteer service which translates into about $5 million a year.

When she assumed the presidency in 1989, McGuire recalls a nun telling her Trinity did not recruit from District of Columbia Public Schools. A lot has changed since then, she added.

"At Trinity, we just published a report on Trinity dealing with its partnership with the city," said McGuire. "We are the largest provider of higher education opportunities to D.C. residents. Forty-five percent are D.C. students of our 1,000 students and one third of our students come from east of the [Anacostia] River. Trinity has a $30 million endowment and we award $5 million in direct grants and discounts on tuition. We're growing our own. It has been a huge success - alignment of educational programs in line with needs. This is a tremendous offering to D.C. and it makes sense."

""People don't know the story, don't know how much the university has contributed to the city," she asserted.

McGuire, who was named one of the 100 most powerful women in Washington, said that the university has invested an additional $2 million to educate residents who live east of the [Anacostia] River.

Sessoms, who worked for the U.S. State Department for 14 years before coming to the University of the District of Columbia, echoed the sentiments of his peers who spoke of the need to do a much better job aligning their universities' course offerings to fit into a rapidly changing work environment.

"Thirty-five percent of our residents are illiterate so we need remedial education and training for people. We have to move non-participants in the economy to jobs."

In addition, Sessoms said, in five years, 85 percent of the jobs we now have will no longer exist.

Given the future job market, they said, administrators must quickly develop the strategic alignment that all universities and colleges need as they seek to develop higher education curriculums that reflect the jobs administrators see coming.