The re-segregation of UDC?

February 9, 2009

Marco Murillo reports on the consequences of a threatened tuition hike at the University of the District of Columbia.

WASHINGTON--In a city where longtime residents have seen their community institutions transformed, sold off or simply terminated, the University of the District of Columbia (UDC)--one of few affordable colleges in the area--is next on the chopping block.

The Board of Trustees will vote on February 11 on a tuition increase at UDC. Many students are native Washingtonians whose current tuition is around $3,300. The increase would go into effect in September 2009 and raise tuition to $7,000 per year for students in a four-year program.

Students and faculty are outraged at the potential hike. For many, UDC is the only viable college institution where working-class individuals can further their education.

"What do the people who think they had a way out do now?" said returning student Christina Cameron. "They're not thinking about us. They didn't ask us."

The tuition hike accompanies another unprecedented outrage--the end of open enrollment, the cornerstone of UDC. District of Columbia public school graduates will now need a 1400 on their SAT and a 2.0 minimum grade point average to gain admittance.

Tuition hikes could put an education out of reach for many students at the University of the District of Columbia
Tuition hikes could put an education out of reach for many students at the University of the District of Columbia

As UDC President Allen Sessoms said coldly, "[We] will no longer have open admission. The community college takes care of that." The "community college" he's referring to is Southeastern University, which is located in Southeast D.C. where residents are mostly Black. UDC is in the predominately white upper Northwest.

This stinks of resegregation for thousands of Black and Latino students. Is Sessoms sending a message that we should all stay where we are?

While students are outraged, there is some confusion about fighting back. "Although I understand student opposition," explains senior journalism major, Ra-Jah Kelly, "it's important that we understand that all we want is better services."

It's true. We do all want better services, but what UDC is suggesting will not mean better services. Proof of that are the buyouts proposed of longtime faculty members, which the faculty union strongly opposes.

The school president says all the cuts and tuition hikes are because of budget shortfalls. But in a hostile economic climate where banking elites like Citigroup can buy a new $50 million private jet with bailout money from Washington's "golden parachutes," it's inconceivable that some of this capital cannot be allocated to UDC.

What you can do

On February 10, starting at 10 a.m., students will be "sleeping in" in front of UDC--their action will last until 7 p.m. the following night. Come and show your support.

"Students need to come out in hordes!" said English Composition professor Naseem Sahibzada.

We need to fight back and build solidarity with all those who oppose this unfair proposal.

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