November 15, 2013

A PROPOSAL TO cut programs at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), including intercollegiate athletics, reflects an overdue recognition that the school needs to redirect its resources if it is to serve the critical needs of city residents. The long-standing refusal of previous administrations to face that basic reality compounded the university’s fiscal and educational troubles. So it is encouraging that the school’s current president is willing to face up to the difficult decisions that must be made. Let’s hope that the board of trustees finds similar spine.

James E. Lyons Sr., the interim president of UDC, has unveiled a plan to overhaul the school by focusing squarely on the mission of giving students the skills for jobs in high-demand fields. “The University can no longer attempt to be all things to all people,” concludes the strategic plan, Vision 2020, which was presented to trustees.

Under the plan, as The Post’s Nick Anderson reported, 23 of 55 baccalaureate and graduate programs would be eliminated and the savings redirected. Among the priorities: growing enrollment through financial aid, launching more online courses, strengthening the faculty and expanding continuing education.

Getting the most attention is the plan to disband varsity teams. There may be bragging rights in intercollegiate sports, but it became apparent long ago that UDC was foolish to suppose it could grow student enrollment or alumni giving by investing in athletic programs. There is appeal in Mr. Lyons’s plan to use some of the savings to provide fitness, nutrition and wellness programs for all students.

The community college that was created as a branch of UDC in 2009 would be spared any cuts. That is appropriate, given the overwhelming need for programs that prepare students to get jobs or that will lead to further learning. If there is a weakness in Mr. Lyons’s plan, it is that sufficient attention hasn’t been paid to strengthening the community college. It was a mistake to create the college within the troubled framework of the university. We hope that, when the board meets Tuesday, it is able to articulate a future for the community college that ensures success.

Continue reading