The University of the District of Columbia, faced with a serious financial squeeze because of the city's budget crisis, is planning to double all tuitions next fall, raising the rate for D.C. resident undergraduates to $330 a year.
Even with the increase -- the sharpest ever by the city-run university -- costs for local students at UDC will still be the lowest in the Washington area and lower than at any other state university in the country, said Marjorie H. Parker, chairman of the UDC trustees' finance committee.
"We really have to step up tuition," Parker said, "because we have such a gap between the university's needs and [Mayor Marion Barry's] mark in next year's budget. I hope the students will understand that the increase is worth it. We believe there's enough financial aid for everyone who needs it."
Parker said the finance committee voted 4-0 to recommend the increase at a meeting on Tuesday. She said she expects the full board of trustees to approve it on Sept. 30.
However, Albert Elliott, the student member of the board, denounced the proposed increase as excesssive. Elliott said there should be a public hearing before the tuition increase is approved.
"I can't believe that [all the students] can afford it with the way the economy is today," Elliott said in an interview. "Some are really going to be hurt. This is harsh."
The university has 13,901 students this fall, down 8 percent from last year.
Because most are part-timers, its full-time equivalent enrollment, the figure used for planning its budget, is 8,053, a 7 percent drop from a year ago. The full-time-equivalent enrollment is about 2,000 less than the number enrolled in 1975 by the three public colleges that merged to form UDC -- Federal City College, Washington Technical Institute, and D.C. Teachers College.
Besides the current $165-a-year rate for D.C. residents, undergraduate tuition is now $1,415 a year for nonresidents. For graduate students -- mostly teachers getting master's degree credits -- tuition is $612 for D.C. residents and $1,422 for nonresidents. About 10 percent of UDC's students are not city residents.
Under the finance committee's proposal, Parker said, tuition would be doubled next fall for all categories of students. She said the committee has made no recommendation about changing the $34 in athletic and student activities fees that all students also are required to pay, although they may be increased later.
This year UDC expects to receive $2.8 million in tuition revenue, covering just about 5 percent of its exppenses, a smaller share than for any state university in the country, according to a study by the National Institute of Education. Nationally, student tuitions cover about 20 percent of costs at public colleges and universities. By doubling tuition revenue next year, Parker said, UDC hopes to offset Barry's decision to hold the city's contribution at its current level even though faculty salaries and other costs will rise.
Under a new city law, UDC gets to keep all the tuition money it collects rather than turning it into the general city treasury as it was required to do in the past.
When the higher tuition rates go into effect, Parker said that because of "the strange way that government help operates, [needy] students will qualify for even more aid [than the cost of the increase]."
According to an impact statement prepared by UDC administrators, the university's current undergraduate tuition for city residents is $2,600 less than the average paid at other D.C. colleges. Even Howard University, which is relatively low-cost because of a heavy federal subsidy, charges $1,965 a year. At Georgetown, tuition and required fees now come to $5,020 a year.
The current charges for in-state undergraduates are $884 at the University of Maryland and $1,030 at the University of Virginia. At community colleges, which are mainly two-year institutions, tuition and fees now come to $792 at Montgomery College, $470 at Prince George's Community College, and $342 at Northern Virginia Community College. All are expected to rise next year.
"You've got to remember," Parker said, "that even though it is a 100 percent increase, $330 [at UDC] is still a very low tuition for a full undergraduate program."