UDC plans cuts, including degree programs, to solve budget problems

The University of the District of Columbia plans to shrink its faculty and staff, eliminate several degree programs and move its community college from North Capitol Street to the main Connecticut Avenue campus under a blueprint released Wednesday.

The plan, submitted this week to city leaders, reflects fiscal pressures that UDC shares with public universities elsewhere, as well as the unique political circumstances of a school with modest resources in the nation’s capital that is striving to raise its academic profile.

More news about education

Historic Wilson school may be redeveloped as new school

Arlington board announcement reverses earlier decision to sell property to a developer

Va. education board criticizes unfunded SOL reform law

New law requires local school districts to develop alternative assessments but offers no funding

Computer science not widely taught in Washington region

Computer science not widely taught in Washington region

The subject is also not a staple of high school education nationally, a look at AP exam numbers suggests.

Read more

Under the plan, which university trustees approved in late September, UDC will cut $8 million in spending in the coming year out of about $108 million that officials say is in their unrestricted operating budget.

The UDC community college, a two-year school launched in 2009, is expected to be relocated from 801 North Capitol St. NE to the Northwest campus on Connecticut Avenue at Van Ness Street next school year. And some academic programs will be reorganized, with an eye to growing interdisciplinary studies.

Proposed for elimination are bachelor’s degree programs in early-childhood education; elementary education; special education; sociology and anthropology; finance; marketing; procurement and public contracting; and information technology.

Exactly how many positions will be cut from faculty and staff is to be determined pending a consultant’s study of personnel and compensation. But the plan envisions shedding at least 25 positions out of a workforce that UDC President Allen L. Sessoms estimated at 650 to 680 in his unrestricted budget.

Officials predicted debate over the cuts.

“I expect there to be noise,” said Elaine A. Crider, chairwoman of the board of trustees. “We have to stand strong in what we believe is the right thing to do.”

UDC officials plan to ask the city for $10 million in additional funding to carry out the reorganization, which would cover employee severances and other one-time costs. But they predict the plan will help reduce the D.C. contribution to the university budget from $64 million a year to about $50 million a year.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) said he has discussed the plan with his chief of staff but has not fully read it.

“I think it’s going in the right direction,” Gray said. “UDC has been operating in a financially insecure area for a while.”

Gray said the university has tapped too far into its reserves and must learn to “live off of what’s coming in the door, not what’s in the bank.”

The plan notes that UDC’s expenses per full-time student, about $35,152, are 66 percent higher than expenses for comparable schools. Officials aim to shrink that discrepancy to 25 percent within five years.

As of September, UDC had 6,038 students, slightly more than half of them in the community college. That is up, Sessoms said, from 4,700 students when he took over as president in 2008.

Annual tuition for D.C. residents is $3,000 for the community college and about $7,250 for the flagship university. The UDC endowment is about $30 million, Sessoms said. The school has a major construction project, a $40 million student center, underway at its main campus.

 
Read what others are saying