A proposal before the D.C. Council would create the “prerequisites” for an independent community college in Washington, placing the Community College of D.C. under its own governing board and moving its employees and facilities out from under the control of the University of the District of Columbia.
The Community College Independence Act of 2011 would reestablish the community college as an independent agency and start the clock — rather quickly — on appointing trustees and seeking eventual accreditation, a necessary step for a new college.
The legislation is among the recommendations of the Committee of the Whole, the council panel that oversees both the D.C. budget and the public university. Council members were to discuss the recommendations late today.
Successfully splitting UDC into two- and four-year schools is seen as the key accomplishment of President Allen Sessoms, who saw the separation as essential to improving the degree-granting university, which for decades had been bogged down in remediation.
Some observers have argued that the job will not be complete until the community college is fully independent; for now, it operates under the UDC board and is considered part of a University System of the District of Columbia.
An independent report in 2009 urged swift independence for the community college, which was established that fall.
UDC officials said at the time that they agreed with the general idea of splitting off the community college but did not think the two-year college had to be completely independent to succeed. The philosophy of the moment seemed to be that if the community college produced results, the questions would go away.
It’s probably too soon to judge the new college on any “results”; the two-year campus has not yet completed its second year of existence.
But UDC officials now seem to be more open to the question of independence.
“It was always the goal that when the community college could be on its feet, that it would become its own separate institution,” said Alan Etter, UDC spokesman.
The legislation under study would establish an independent community college reporting to D.C. government, rather than UDC, apparently at the very moment it is signed into law. It would dissolve the entity now operating under UDC.
It would set up a nine-member board for the community college, with the first slate of members appointed by the mayor within 60 days and others by the council a short while later. The trustees, together with UDC leaders, would work out a transition plan a couple of months after that.
All employees and facilities now assigned to the community college would move to the new entity, greatly reducing both the enrollment and payroll of UDC.
Creating a new college “is a complicated thing,” Etter said. The community college operates now under UDC’s accreditation and would have to earn its own imprimatur to run independently. Full independence, in that sense, could take years.