By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
University of the District of Columbia leaders announced last night that they would phase in a tuition hike for the coming school year because of increased funding for the school expected in the economic stimulus package passed by Congress.
UDC President Allen Sessoms had planned to recommend that tuition nearly double from about $3,800 to $7,000 a year for District residents studying full time for four-year degrees, and $14,000 a year for students from outside the area. Instead, he will propose that students pay $1,600 more for the fall semester and $1,700 more the next year.
Students applauded the announcement.
"That is certainly a step in the right direction," said William Kellibrew IV, a senior who has been leading student protests against the tuition increases.
"Obviously, the president is considering students who have asked to be included in the decision-making process, and that's a good thing. . . . It's certainly great to have the president make some concessions here and pay attention to the growing voice of the student body. That says a lot. Obviously, this would have been passed by the board of trustees if we had not made a fuss."
Student demonstrators have camped out near the campus for days to protest the tuition proposal. They had planned to march today from the school in Northwest Washington to the D.C. government's John A. Wilson Building to protest the university's plans. Kellibrew said the march will go on as planned, and students still plan to give the president a letter today asking for his resignation.
Sessoms wants to divide the school into a community college that would be open to all students and end open enrollment at a separate four-year university, where he hopes to add more rigorous academic programs. Sessoms also hopes to achieve financial autonomy from the city. Under his plan, tuition for the community college would decrease 30 percent to 40 percent. Sessoms has said the change is needed because funding from the District has been flat for years.
But the reaction on campus has been intense. Last week, about 1,000 students filled an auditorium to implore school officials to block the increase. They said many students would be shut out of a college education if the proposal went through.
School officials said last night that they were committed to making sure that no student currently enrolled would have to leave school because of financial need. They also said that they would help students track down grants and that money has been set aside to help international students pay for an increase.
"UDC students deserve the academic experience and services worthy of their capabilities and highest aspirations," Sessoms said in a statement last night.
"The challenge is finding the resources to provide uniformly first-rate academic programs, the support services our students need and a physical plant that is safe, up-to-date and respectful of the academic enterprise. The reality is that we need increased funding from all available sources to meet our mission and our obligations to the citizens of the District of Columbia. In our tuition increase proposals, we are actually attempting to minimize the contributions we are asking students to make -- and most will be covered by financial aid."
Kellibrew said that if tuition is increased, student want to know why and for what. They also want assurances that the money will be going to measurable goals, he said.
The board is scheduled to vote on the proposed tuition increase Wednesday.