The 13,000 students at UDC--61.9 percent black, 3.1 percent white and 35 percent international, according to the Institutional Research Department--have diverse feelings about the school as they look back at its beginning.
"I chose to come to UDC on the advice of a friend who had attended WTI," says Mohamadou Siby, a student from Mali. "She urged me to go because the tuition was so inexpensive, and because I could obtain my first degree from UDC and pursue my master's at another university.
"Initially, I looked down on UDC because there were so many other universities, like George Washington, Catholic and Georgetown, where I felt I could obtain a better education. But the quality of education at UDC is very good. In talking with my friends who attend other universities, they are not learning any more than I am learning at UDC."
Sulaiman Tarawaley, a student from Sierra Leone and a news anchor for the program, "News of the African World" on WPFW radio, is convinced that UDC can produce the same caliber student as any other university. "My first concept was that UDC was a stepping- stone to college, a beginner college. I had the wrong conception. UDC has a qualified and extensive program that prepares students for the challenges of the outside work world. I'm being prepared for that world."
Indeed, UDC graduates are landing professional positions and being accepted into graduate schools across the country--such people as Leroy Tilman, who is now sports director for WTOP; Eddie Hill Jr., who writes for The Post; and Louise Leonard, who is working on her master's in economics at the University of Illinois.
Juanita Jeter, who graduated summa cum laude from UDC in 1981 and who is now administrative assistant to the Acquisition Unit at National Public Radio, expresses her feelings on how UDC helped her to get her job:
"There were dedicated instructors working under the most adverse conditions along with poor facilities, but they still worked hard to teach me. I am proud to have been a part of the university."
The downtown Mt. Vernon campus was housed in various old buildings, many in terrible condition. Now with a new campus, students have a sense of a new university with its modern facilities, spacious and clean classrooms, equipped labs and even a large new library and gym.
There are many more improvements needed, though, which is to be expected with any new university. Phil Stern, a white student at UDC, suggests that "registration needs to be totally revised." He argues that an open-door policy that allows anyone to come to the university is not good, and that the quality of instructors is below standard because of it. But because he found the relatively low tuition attractive, Stern chose UDC.
Keywan Khayam, an Iranian student, feels the administration needs improvement, noting that though the full-time staff is better today, the part-time staff could be upgraded.
But most students at UDC have a bright outlook on the future of their university. Freshman Leroy Young believes it is up to the students and alumni to make UDC a prominent center of higher learning. "UDC will be one of the major black universities, along with Howard University one day," he says. "No longer will my friends call my school the University for Dumb Colored Children."