D.C. Needs an Independent Community College and a Smaller, Stronger U.D.C. (Opinion)

Thursday, April 26, 2012
For many years, the District of Columbia was the only "state" or major metropolitan area without a community college. In 2009, the University of the District of Columbia created a community college division, which was meant to fill that void. While U.D.C has all along indicated an interest in seeing the community college achieve its own accreditation and become "independent," the D.C. Council hoped to accelerate that process, and appointed a D.C. Community College Transition to Independence Advisory Board to work with the leadership of U.D.C and the community college to create a plan for independence. On April 23, in testimony before the D.C. Council on U.D.C's FY2013 budget, the five-member Advisory Board made public its initial findings. The findings are premised on the need for the community college to retain consistent accreditation through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the regional accrediting body, so that students remain eligible for financial aid, and that credits and degrees earned at the community college are recognized by other accredited institutions. This means that the best pathway to independence for the community college lies in becoming recognized first as a branch campus of U.D.C, and then becoming a separately accredited branch, before becoming fully independent of U.D.C. The challenge, however, is that U.D.C. is currently in a precarious financial state. It has run a deficit for several years and depends on an increasingly larger appropriation from the District to meet its escalating costs. And independence of the community college depends upon U.D.C being a stable, fiscally healthy institution that can justify and support the creation of a financially-sustainable new branch.

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