Future of UDC-CC at Center of Special Council Hearing

Dorothy Rowley | 10/16/2012, 8:32 p.m.

"You know I have your back," Brown told the students - many of whom listened to the proceedings from outside the packed chamber. "We mandated that UDC come up with a plan to right-size in view of all [of] its expenditures," said Brown, who has oversight of the community college and stressed that UDC receives $65 million each year in taxpayer funding.

He said that UDC's right-sizing plan poses more questions than answers.

"Who were its consultants and why weren't the mayor and D.C. Council more involved," Brown asked. Noting cuts of about 20 percent in personnel at UDC-CC compared to 70 percent staff cuts at UDC, Brown said things seemed out of balance.

He added that it would be a travesty to relocate UDC-CC's three buildings.

"There's a great need for the community college to maintain its presence in the city's various communities, especially for those who need workforce training,"said Emory McIver, who's employed at the North Capitol Street Workforce Development Center. "However, if they close those sites down, the convenience of them being there will be derided and create a hardship on students who really need them in their neighborhoods."

Sessoms has been at the helm since 2008, and during that time has effected sweeping changes at the university. Not only did he separate the institution in half with formation of the community college, Sessoms, 65, offered an open admissions policy for the four-year university, with higher tuition and admission standards.

Nonetheless, UDC has still dealt with a myriad of problems that include a dip in enrollment trends, student and staff protests over curriculum and program changes and concern over Sessoms' spending habits.

At a time when other area two-year institutions like Prince George's Community College are receiving millions of dollars in state and federal grants to support cybersecurity training and other projects aimed at increasing enrollment, to UDC's defense, Sessoms insists the community college is being left out of the loop. Particularly, when it comes to local funding.

"The District simply has not been allocating the necessary funding," Sessoms said. "We got the Bertie Backus and the P. R. Harris sites for the community college, as well as a nod on a lease/purchase arrangement on the building on North Capitol Street. But it's costing us $2 million more a year, which is pretty expensive. As a result, we've had to consider moving those facilities back to the main campus and saving $5 million a year."