Budget Hearing for the University of the District of Columbia

Dr. Alice Rivlin provided testimony before the Council of the District of Columbia, advocating for more resources for the new Community College of the District of Columbia (CCDC).

Good afternoon Chairman Gray and members of the Committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to testify at this important hearing on the Fiscal Year 2011 budget for the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). My colleague, Walter Smith, and I will focus briefly the how the budget can help define the role of the new Community College of the District of Columbia (CCDC) and enhance the ability of both CCDC and UDC to serve DC students effectively.

As you know, DC Appleseed and Greater Washington Research at Brookings have produced reports pointing out the District’s need for a strong community college—in addition to a strong public university—and options for creating one. Most recently, we jointly sponsored a study by JBL Associates that assessed the feasibility of incubating a community college at UDC while it evolved toward independence. We are pleased that CCDC—which opened at UDC in the fall 2009—is off to a good start. Under the leadership of the Community College CEO Dr. Jonathan Gueverra, and with the support of UDC President Alan Sessoms, CCDC has taken over UDC’s associate degree, certificate, and workforce development programs, launched new liberal studies and continuing education programs, and assembled a student success team. There are currently over 2,300 students registered in CCDC’s degree and certificate programs, and another 1,500 in workforce development and continuing education.

Separating CCDC’s programs and student body from the flagship university was a critical first step in establishing an independent DC community college. In order to carry out their respective missions and serve Washington’s post-secondary students well, however, CCDC and UDC must continue to separate their functions and services. We appreciate the opportunity to offer our views today on how the budget process can move the community college toward independence.

1. CCDC Needs Personnel and Administrative Authority to Carry Out Its Mission

CCDC and UDC have made remarkable progress defining their separate identities in the short time—less than a year—since CCDC was created. In the next year, however, CCDC needs to spell out more clearly what kind of educational opportunities it will (and will not) offer to the Washington community. As the new institution in town, CCDC should introduce itself to the community and highlight its unique mission and aspirations, as well as its potential for complimenting and cooperating with UDC’s flagship university.

As we pointed out in our reports, the mission of a community college is different from that of a university and requires a different kind of faculty and administrative structure. In general, university faculty have both research and teaching responsibilities, while community college faculty focus primarily on teaching, often have practical career experience and usually do not hold a doctorate. Community colleges’ open admissions, flexibility, and affordability attract a higher mix of students who are academically at-risk—trying to balance school with family and work obligations, returning to school after several years out of school, or likely to need substantial developmental education. Accordingly, community colleges are increasingly reforming their administrative structures and operating procedures to support students at academic risk and maximize their success. Such administrative features include data systems designed to track student persistence, a streamlined delivery system for student and academic services, and financial aid policies that meet the needs of low-income students and working adults.

Since a significant portion of CCDC’s student body is at academic risk, it is crucial that the community college’s faculty and administrative structure enables students to achieve their educational goals, whether they be upgrading career skills, earning a certificate or degree, or transferring to a four-year college. Many CCDC graduates will in time be seeking admission to UDC’s flagship, so it is especially important that the two institutions work together to align their curricula and make student transitions easy.

In order to carry out its mission in a cost-effective manner, CCDC must be able to establish its own faculty contract—one that suits the demands of a community college. This requisite will be difficult to accomplish as long as CCDC operates with UDC’s salary scale which is gauged to a traditional university faculty. CCDC must also establish modern, efficient administrative and data collection systems that meet the distinct needs of its students, faculty, and administration.

2. CCDC Needs a Strategic Operating Plan that Lays Out the Path to Independence

In order to move toward these important benchmarks, CCDC needs a strategic operating plan that will detail the steps and costs of separating operationally where necessary from the flagship. A strategic operating plan would also lay out the programs that CCDC aspires to offer and a plan for acquiring associated faculty, curricula, professional accreditation, and equipment; estimates for annual enrollment that demonstrate CCDC’s planned growth; and an administrative and facilities plan that will accomplish over time CCDC’s deliberate separation from UDC with independent accreditation.

We appreciate your support for CCDC’s development of such a plan and trust that you will be able to work with Dr. Sessoms and Dr. Gueverra to identify resources from the FY2011 budget that can be applied to this purpose.

3. CCDC Needs its Own Facilities

We believe it is important that CCDC have its own facilities in order to advance the community college’s independent identity and to accommodate increased enrollment. The $10.6 million budgeted for the community college in UDC’s FY2011 budget does not seem to include expenditures for facilities nor does the University’s capital budget specify facility plans for CCDC.

We understand there has been a great deal of discussion about various facilities—including 801 North Capitol Street and the former Bertie Backus Middle School. Regardless of which location is ultimately chosen, there should be sufficient funds available to secure facilities that can accommodate the community college’s planned programs, as well as its anticipated increase in enrollment.

The cost of leasing a new facility should be clearly delineated as a line item in the community college portion of UDC’s FY2011 budget. Moreover, renovation costs for Backus or any additional CCDC facilities should be designated as such in UDC’s capital budget. Further, we believe that any revenue provided by the DC government for CCDC’s facilities expenses should be dedicated specifically to this purpose and identified in the budget allocation as such.

I will now turn to Walter Smith who will talk about how CCDC, UDC, and the District government must start planning now to achieve budget goals for FY2012.