The Community College of the District of Columbia will keep its doors open after gaining a reprieve from its financial woes. The news has prompted sighs of relief from parents and students, who have benefitted from the two-year institution, which is a subsidiary of the University of the District of Columbia.

“All I know is that no other educational institution has given my son the attention he needed to be successful,” said Jenise Patterson, executive director of Parent Watch. “Its Manhood Initiative Project is phenomenal.”

Now less than 2 years old, CCDC has 2,300 students enrolled at three locations in southeast, northeast and downtown Washington.

On March 8, UDC President Allen Sessoms testified before Council Chairman Kwame Brown along with Councilmembers Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Michael Brown (I-At Large) about the dire straits of the community college and the amount of funds needed on a regular basis to keep it afloat.

Sessoms’ report seemed to come as a surprise to lawmakers, though the college had been operating without a line-item budget and UDC had not been given the funds to operate the community college since its inception in 2009. The Council requested an external audit of the university’s funding by the UDC Board of Trustees and had the results sent directly to it.

Officials seemed to conclude that the funding was necessary.

“Without question, residents wanted the community college in Ward 8. The southeast campus was easily accessible and catered to the individual needs of the students before they transcended to the university or entered the workforce with an associate degree or special skills,” said Councilman Barry. “Like anything else, if we want it to operate properly, we must provide the necessary funds for it to operate.”

Sessoms requested $8.3 million for operating costs. However, the Council allocated $3.5 million to sustain CCDC through the end of the fiscal year.

“We continue to seek the balance of the $8.3 million and may have to cease some services if the gap is not closed,” said Alan Etter, UDC public information officer.

While the funding issue continues, legislation was introduced to separate the community college from UDC and make it a free-standing institution.  The mayor has requested a cost analysis of separating the two schools. Currently, the schools share functions, such as human resources, facilities maintenance, finance, and marketing.

“I am proud to be supportive of UDC and its community college. However, I would like for the community college having independence and autonomy,” said Councilman Michael Brown.

But university officials claim there are serious issues to consider.  The community college, at present, is accredited only by virtue of its association with UDC.  The process of becoming a candidate for accreditation takes a long time, and the school must demonstrate that it can support itself financially as well as academically.  Using the shared services model, school officials said, it is much more cost effective. 

“The accreditation issue is extremely important when it comes to financial aid.  If the community college were to be cut out from under UDC right now, the U.S. Department of Education would not certify any of its students for financial aid – as the community college would not be accredited,” said Etter. “That is a huge concern for us as it would negatively affect our students.”

Etter added, “Dr. Sessoms has always said it was his intent to incubate the community college, and when it was sufficiently able to be self-sustaining then it would be established as a separate entity.”

Another issue that arose as a result of the audit by the trustees was subsidized tuitions to out-of-state students. “We still have some questions about why our government would be subsidizing the tuition for students who live outside of the District,” said Councilman Brown. “They should be paying an out-of-state rate which should bring in additional revenue.”

University officials said it offered a flat rate to all community college students, regardless of the jurisdiction, to attract participants. The flat rate for the community college is $3,000. For UDC, the in-state tuition is $7,000, and out of state is $14,000.

“There is a study underway right now to examine a higher tuition rate for the community college.  A tuition increase could not affect current students, as they were admitted to their programs.  A tuition increase could only be applied to future students who are considered out-of-state,” Etter said.

There would be an expected drop in enrollment, based on the higher tuition among out-of-state students.

 

Valencia Mohammed

Special to the AFRO