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UDC's Application for Branch Campus Status Approved

Dorothy Rowley | 1/23/2013, 11:51 a.m.

The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) has been given the nod to begin a process that - if approved - would allow it to relocate part of its three-year-old community college to the flagship campus on Connecticut Avenue in Northwest.

UDC is currently undergoing a change in leadership following the recent firing of President Allen Sessoms, who'd led efforts for the community college's relocation. However, officials moved forward and announced on Jan. 16 that the community college site at 801 North Capitol St. in Northeast was on its way to possibly becoming a branch of the sprawling Van Ness campus, after the Middle States Commission on Higher Education approved an application submitted by the university in October.

"We are very pleased that Middle States recognizes the tremendous progress of our community college," said Rachel Petty, UDC chief operating officer. "This symbolizes the great resource UDC-CC has become for our students and our city."

With the application process completed, action taken by Middle States requires that accrediting officials make a site visit to the Van Ness campus within six months in accordance with accreditation standards.

The community college also operates from locations at the Patricia Roberts Harris Building on Livingston Road in Southeast and the former Bertie Backus Elementary School on South Dakota Avenue in Northeast. Nothing has been said on whether those locations will be moved, but students and faculty voiced opposition to relocation attempts this past summer during a public hearing at the John A. Wilson Building in Northwest.

At that time, students from neighborhoods such as Congress Heights in Southeast and Kenilworth in Northeast said that traveling to the flagship campus to attend classes would pose transportation hardships and other inconveniences.

The community college, which opened in August 2009, is an academic division of UDC - the District's only public university - and had initially cost about $12 million each year to operate. However, university officials led by Sessoms, complained that over the past few years the District, which funds UDC's operational costs, had not increased funding for the community college.

In the wake of other long-standing financial issues, university officials began to consider relocating the community college to the main campus in order to help resolve UDC's countless cash flow problems. In that event, UDC officials hoped that the city would kick in additional funding for the community college to operate on the Van Ness campus.

In April 2011 during lengthy testimony before the D.C. Council Committee on Housing and Workforce Development, the plan that would enable the community college to become a branch campus of UDC in Fiscal Year 2013 was discussed. Testimony was also provided that stated once the community college gained campus status it could become an independent institution or remain part of the university system.

But the plan also noted that the final step toward full independence would be left up to the mayor and the D.C. Council as well as the UDC Board of Trustees.

However, Paul Bachman, a UDC management professor, said it needs to be made clear that the university still must meet Middle State's approval in order to achieve branch campus status.

"The university needs to make known that they still have to prove that it's financially sound, that they have sufficient physical facilities and that all the classrooms are sufficient, and they're about to get all of that examined," Bachman said. "The accrediting agency is going to want to know where is the funding stream that's going to support this community college and what facilities will be used to establish it."