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Can a University be Gentrified?

by Prince Of Petworth — July 7, 2010 at 9:15 pm 68 Comments

We’ve talked about neighborhoods and gentrification but never Universities and gentrification. This is the claim made by a group called Fair Tuition UDC about the University of the District of Columbia. They write in an email:

Over the past 1 ½ years, UDC has had a change in administration which has produced some of the most drastic tuition increases that has occurred at a public university in recent times. Even though the UDC administration has tried to justify the need for these increases, they have not been fair in administering them. Although law professors have had an increase in salary in order to retain them, The UDC David Clarke School of Law has been spared tuition increases for more than 10 years while the rest of University tuition has been increased several times since 1995.

Now our group has wondered why our elected officials are mum on this topic. Many of our members have come up with numerous reasons for this but mainly the gentrification of UDC seems to stand at the top of the list. Although we here at Fairtuition4UDC do not like to use race/class as an issue, we can not help but notice that the demographics of the law school (majority Caucasian non DC residents) is much different from the demographics of the undergraduate student body (majority African American DC residents). Along with what seems as the “white washing” of the UDC website (only features one black student on the main page) and the new ad campaign that includes an ad that doesn’t even have a black face; we can not help but to think otherwise. We also find this quite ironic for a university that is considered a Historically Black College & University (HBCU). Even though we are for diversity, a blatant misrepresentation of UDC is not only extremely disrespectful to its students, faculty and alumni, but also quite unacceptable.


  • Dittle

    I went to Howard which is an HBCU and I had no idea that UDC is one as well. That being said, I think most of the professional schools at HBCUs (including Howard) have a student body that is majority non-black. It is sad, but it has been like that for quite some time.

    • Anonymous

      Just why is that sad ?

      • Anonymous

        I think the comment simply means that under-representation of minorities in post-grad programs is sad. Nothing more.

    • Rick Shard

      Being an HBCU by no means guarantees the ethnic make up of a university’s student body. Take West Virginia State, for example. It’s an HBCU, but the student body there is overwhelmingly white these days. There are probably a few other examples.

  • Nannifier

    Can we ever get over this race issue? It’s amazing it’s taking so long, and that blacks continue to struggle, and whites have to endure the counter racism. It’s really killing our country. Why is it taking so freakin’ long to give the historically disadvantaged people of color, some (many?) of whom inherited the legacy of legal discrimination and thereby continually start out at a huge disadvantage compared to others who didn’t have to endure such inequities, some more of the rise in the tide.

    And why is it that whites are now being labeled in ways that make whites feel discriminated against? Are they not “allowed” to go to UDC or Howard and god-fobid date black women and learn alongside their darker skinned brothers?

    • Anonymous

      why is it taking so long? blacks spent 400 years in this country as second class citizens (actually much worse for the majority of that time) and only gained legal equality about 35 years ago. In the course of history, the type of socio-economic change that you seek is happening quite fast actually.

      • In the course of history, the type of socio-economic change that you seek is happening quite fast actually.


      • InCH

        +1 Exactly.

        I know it’s “annoying” for the whole slavery thing to keep coming up, but honestly, it’s still relevant.

  • E23

    I think the comment simply means that under-representation of minorities in post-grad programs is sad. Nothing more.

  • Jason

    What self respecting person of any color goes to UDC? Any graduate of a DCPS high school has their choice of state schools to go to and frankly and given state university in MD or VA is significantly superior in almost any program to UDC.

  • So

    It’s hard to care. UDC is known to be such a horrible, horrible school — it probably ought to be razed and rebuilt from the ground up. Or simply closed. It’s just too hard to believe any school with the name UDC could ever be a remotely quality institution.

  • andy

    I believe the clear consensus is that UDC is a bad school, with students lacking skills coming in, taught poorly, and leaving with poor prospects. It’s the state university companion to DCPS.

    Boosters, prove this widely held belief wrong with proof.

    I believe that students get very little of value from UDC. Conclusions from that should be that they should pay very little or be offered a different product at a higher price.

    Redefining what that new product is is important. But should the university also target a different market? I doubt it. Can they outcompete Maryland, NOVA or Montgomery College?

    I think UDC is stuck with its market and should actually try to educate locals with poor admissions capabilities in things that will improve their job prospects. So that’s why I liked it when I saw that UDC might become more like a community college. That seemed actually helpful.

    So just a couple of random thoughts there. I’d appreciate thoughtful criticism of my pretty conventional wisdom.

    • I think you are discounting the older working students who attend UDC for cost and convenience. The poorly taught students who come in lacking skills do not last.

      I am not a UDC Alum and I cannot speak on the school as a whole but I know they put out some solid attorneys. Granted you are not likely to get a prestigious clerkship or big time firm jobs after graduating UDC Law but they have solid reputations at the local courthouses. They also have a good clinical program and it costs 8k a year (not a typo 8k a Year) for residents 15k non-residents. People want to be lawyers and they want to be in DC.

  • Thor

    Has anyone graduated from UDC Law School? Does that diploma have any value?

    • Matthew

      I do and I am most likely making more than you. Considering I sit next to many georgtown law / gw alum I think I gamed the system correctly. Low tuition and a solid job that other kids paid 5 times as much.

      • PW Neighbor

        You have no clue what people on this blog earn.

        • Dave

          Neither do you, but I’m sensing some buyer’s remorse and an acknowledgment of Matthew’s point that you don’t have to go to one of the most expensive law schools in the country to earn a quality degree and make as much money as those who have.

          • Anonymous

            Having once been very active in hiring for big-law jobs that paid 160k to newly-minted law grads, I can say we didn’t ever consider recruiting at UDC Law. Not to say that some students there don’t beat the odds, or that it’s not a valuable legal education that’s also a value, just that the odds of making a lot of money in a very short time as a UDC grad are much lower than they would be if you graduated from Georgetown. Of course, so is your student debt. I would imagine that, in the current legal hiring environment, the odds are even lower still — these days, you can get Yale and Harvard Law grads to work for nothing.

            But, as is true in most of life, the biggest money in law is going to be made by those who are the most entrepreneurial, which has nothing to do with where you went to law school.

          • PW Neighbor

            Buyer’s remorse from Matthew? I don’t sense that. From me? No. Take the comment for what it is. He has no idea what people on here make. Is he big firm? Am I big firm? Does he practice corporate law and I practice immigration law? Have I left the law to work for a top hedge fund? Did I ever go to law school? No one knows. The point is, don’t assume in a condescending manner that you earn more.

  • Anonymous

    at an anc meeting i went to, we were provided a quick run down on the upcoming new noma campus for udc.

    they mentioned the land grant hbcu status and said that even with the great “paradigm shift” in dc, it will remain an hbcu.

    the presenter said she preferred to pronounce it “para diggem”.
    so “paradigm shift” is the euphemism is it?

    • saf

      “the presenter said she preferred to pronounce it “para diggem”.”

      Please, please, tell me that you are kidding.

      • Anonymous

        i shit you not.
        her name was Dr. Gayle Anderson Holness.
        the director of business affairs at udc.

        dumbing it down for the DC and the para digg’em shift.

        • saf

          Oh. I know her. Yeah.

          What was really getting me is the construction “I prefer to pronounce it…” I can better understand not knowing the word than I can understand knowing it and choosing to pronounce it incorrectly.

  • Ragged Dog

    Another bigoted interest group complaining about too many white people.

    • Andy

      I am a little worried when people say things about gentrification or gentrifiers that you couldn’t say about other groups in mainstream urban discourse.

      I wouldn’t say there are too many “X” in my neighborhood or schools.

      Or say, well, that some old distinguished university is a historically WASP university, the only reason that they could raise tuition for undergrads rather than the law school must be attributed to the faces that they put on the University website or that the law school is not as or more WASPy as the undergraduate schools. It’s like blaming communists or witches.

      And on a positive note it’s good to hear that you can get some value out of UDC law.

      • Ragged Dog

        If they had a useful message, it got lost in the incoherent raving.

        Maybe the law school is run by Rosco P. Coltrane and Boss Hog.

  • Joe

    Gentrification and race are two separate issues. If UDC is misrepresenting its student body demographics, that doesn’t mean there is any “gentrification” going on. People need to stop linking these two issues.

    • Emil


  • Emil

    I see one African American and one non-African American on the homepage but I don’t see how that matters unless they are only photographing non-African Americans. It seems, however, their other pictures are all stock photos.

    In any event, the tuition seems on par. The Law school tuition at UDC is on par with what a state school with its fairly low ranking should be (NOT THAT IT MEANS IT IS A BAD SCHOOL)
    $8,850 per year for D.C. residents

    Someone going to the 4 year program taking the maximum number of units pays a very low amount. Compare to 40k for GW.
    3,499.96 per year for D.C. residents

    Somoene going to their community college program pays an even lower rate for taking the maximum units

    1,500 per year for D.C. residents

    Compare that to most other state schools including CA and this is one of the lowest.

  • Anonymous

    “hbcu” makes me feel that white people aren’t wanted.

  • Setting aside all issues of academics, one thing that UDC has working against it is a hideous campus, dominated by large, bland concrete buildings. It resembles at best, a sterile 1970s office park, at worst, a Soviet camp for political prisoners. A few years ago, there was a movement afloat to relocate the campus somewhere, and raze the current facility, and give it over to private development. Something along those lines needs to be done. It’s atrocious, from the lifeless, hard-edged plaza at the entrance, to the actual architecture. It should look like a real college!

    • Ragged Dog

      Eh. If it’s serving an academic mission and the classrooms are taken care of who the heck cares what it looks like from the street. I’m not sure we to spend money on making the building look pretty to attract students. It’s utilitarian and it’s fine. Montgomery College has some pretty hideous architecture as well.

      It’s a no frills education at a no frills cost.

      • Anonymous

        if utilitarian architecture was good enough for soviet russia, it is good enough for DC

        • Ragged Dog

          Well it’s an interesting historical question why a large number of our buildings followed soviet architecture while we were fighting a war against them. My guess is the same world energy problems lead to designing highly energy efficient buildings.

          It probably keeps the operating costs low vs. a large glass enclosed monstrosity.

  • bad_e_bad


    POP before you post, check the facts.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      Perhaps I should have specified, the email I received and posted from the group Fair Tuition UDC or any group for that matter does not necessarily represent an endorsement.

      • Ragged Dog

        Yeah, but if you’re just going to post any old thing that people send you, it’s going to get ridiculous. Your medium gets exploited by an interest group with no basis in fact. Then because it gets reported on your blog, it gets accepted as true by people.

        • bad_e_bad


        • Anonymous

          +1… lazy PoP

        • Not Fair

          I took the title of this post to be questioning the basis of the argument. He asks “Can a University be gentrified?” and presents an argument for it. It was introduced in such a way that it was clear to the reader he saw such a concept as a reach and maybe even saw gentrify as a false modifier for what the pamphlet described, whether or not it was true. Stop nitpicking.

          • Ragged Dog

            I’m not nitpicking, I’m questioning the use of this group’s email -without comment- as the basis for this discussion.

            The “facts” presented in this email are totally bogus, so the question of whether a university can be gentrified can’t even get started. I know I watch too much Law and Order, but if there’s no foundation to the argument, then you can’t jump to the next level of debating the merits can you?

            It’s like in science class when you state you hypothesis then skip to the conclusion without doing the experiment. Or you state your hypothesis, fake the data, then draw your conclusion. How can you have a debate about the conclusion?

          • InCH

            +1 The question actually wasn’t about UDC.

          • Not Fair

            Fortunately for everyone, we’re on the Internet and this is a blog in which people can express anything they want to freely. If you believe that either a.) if someone posts something that they are automatically endorsing it or b.) they must adhere to either courtroom decorum (as dictated by L&O of course) or to the scientific process (as dictated by your 6th grade science fair) you are sorely mistaken.

            You would have never known about this email if it werent for PoP posting it, so by that very fact, he has provided you with more information than you had before.

          • Ragged Dog

            Eh, it’s a for profit media outlet and it’s a discussion forum. We can let the discussion dribble off into WTOP land or we can have a useful civic minded debate. This city is sorely in need of a civic minded debate. Not a stuffy one, but one that stays above the fray. The POST is also a much more effective outlet if all we want to do is sling baseless accusations and debate issues that don’t exist or aren’t relevant.

            It’s not like I’m paying to be here, so my thoughts deserve special attention, but I thought it was a valid question.

  • In the one brief period when I thought about going to law school, UDC did cross my mind mainly on price points and location. However the type of law (intellectual property) I had a mild interest in wasn’t the kind being taught at UDC. I was thinking of being government/non-profit council and from the lawyers I knew who worked for the Feds or dinky non-profits the incomes from those jobs just did not justify the cost of the school. If someone was planning on being a big money lawyer and not some immigrant lawyer helping maids and laborers, yeah, go to Georgetown.
    The Van Ness campus is blah, but it’s community college blah, and community colleges don’t have to look nice. They just have to be functional.

  • John

    Blah blah blah – meaningless. Tuition is going up all around the country. Analyze relevent data for UDC and others and see if the tuition increase is out of the norm. As far as race and who is white and who is black and whose picture was taken etc… that is such an old tale, please give it up.

    • Anonymous

      “The UDC David Clarke School of Law has been spared tuition increases for more than 10 years while the rest of University tuition has been increased several times since 1995.”

      this is the crux of their argument. the “white” part of the school is not receiving tuition increases, but the “black” school is.

      i’m not saying its valid, but you seemed to have missed their issue.

      • Ragged Dog

        Right, but don’t most graduate law schools have separate budgeting and tuition practices than the undergraduate institutions which which they’re associated? I don’t think it’s even the same people making the budgeting decisions. They have completely different admissions committees.

        I think 5 minutes of looking at market for attracting graduate law students vs the market of undergraduate students would show sharply different demand and cost constraints.

        Or you could ignore all that and say it’s gentrification which I think is what John was alluding to.

      • Anonymous

        I readily can come up with at least 3 plausible explanations other than “gentrification of UDC” for why this may be the case:

        (1) As noted above, the law cchool may be funded independently, so it’s not subject to other university-wide increases and does its own thing.

        (2) Maybe law school tuition has been much higher than undergrad tuition for the last ten years or more. My guess is that tuition at the college has been highly subsidized, in some form or fashion, for a long, long time, and as funding sources (donors, endowments, allocations from city/federal budgets) have shrunk in the last decade, the college has had to raise tuition, something the law school did long ago.

        (3) The costs of legal education are comparatively very low: it’s basically professors and buildings. Compare this to labs, technology, etc. that are the norm in undergrad programs. The decision might have been not to raise tuition because costs are being covered by tuition. Were you a law student, how would you react to a $2k increase in your tuition to pay for a new chem lab?

        I don’t know if any of these are true or have basis in the facts that pertain to UDC, but each of them strikes me as being equally or more plausible than some nefarious plot to whiten up UDC that the emailer asserts.

        If Fair Tuition DC’s student leaders haven’t considered these among the “numerous reasons” for the tuition increase and still arrive at their conclusion that it’s a race issue, perhaps they should spend a little more time in class and a little less time engaged in student activism.

        • Cait B

          I think Ragged Dog and Anonymous above have hit on the key bit of information that drives this discussion away from the question “Is UDC being gentrified?” and more towards basic questions of the university’s strategic plan –

          law schools and undergraduate degree programs may share the same name and adjacent space, but that’s generally where the sharing ends.

          You can find similar trends at other institutions in the city where a law school and an undergraduate program exist side by side. When it comes down to it, you’re talking about different markets, different administrations, different accreditation requirements, even different accrediting bodies, and so on.

          That said, I’m personally glad to see students on the campus thinking about issues and acting on their convictions, even if we can all (mostly) agree that their convictions aren’t entirely well thought out. Isn’t that what college is for?

          The drive and ability to engage in these debates is a sign of a successful education in my book.

          The ability to refine your points, develop more compelling arguments, and actually win some change tends to be an on-going process long after you’re handed your degree.

  • Ragged Dog

    So to the original question of can a university be gentrified… I think the concept of “gentrification” is pretty bogus. Maybe I haven’t spent enough time in sociology classes, but it just seems like the latest catchall for complaining about not getting what you want. Most of the stuff I’ve heard it applied to recently reeks of that old southern racism that was employed against AA just turned around. So was racism wrong or right? If it’s wrong, it shouldn’t be encouraged. If it’s acceptable, then what the heck did all those people die for in the 1860’s and 1960’s?

    • Bitter Elitist

      The concept isn’t bogus it is a real phenomenon, academic discipline, economic idelogy…. What you’re objecting to is it being used in a reductive manner, kind of like the way you threw out “old southern racism”. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

      I agree that the g-word is being improperly applied to get someone’s dander up; however, you did the same thing with the Jim Crow strawman.

      I’ve read your comments enough to know that you can do better than cheap, inaccurate, unfair shots RD. Those types of responses keep the cycle of DC mistrust and misunderstanding going.

      • Ragged Dog

        I’d be happy to be educated on what gentrification is and what it represents. I never heard it growing up in the bastion of white elitism known as 1980’s/1990’s U St. It’s a new limelight issue to me. I haven’t heard it in any of the major city’s that I’ve lived in. So either it’s being misapplied locally, overused locally or it’s a local phenomena.

  • Anonymous

    Facts are probably not of interest to this group. But, has it occurred to them that one reason the law school tuition has not gone up is b/c many of the students are out-of-state (if that is true, I’m accepting their facts as truthy) which means they are paying more and subsidizing the school. Plus, law school tuition is higher.

  • Anonymous

    As a UDC student, UDC has been an awesome school to attend. I am usually the only white person in my classes and I love it.

    I can’t speak for the Law program though. I do know they encourage many of our BA grads to move forward into their law school.

    The tuition increases suck though. I am feeling it too. They’re actually building a student center and doing some other things not to make our campus look like cold-war era Russia.

    That’s where the money is going.

    • Ragged Dog

      Most schools in the country are dealing with less government funding. UDC is hardly unique. Every year I was in school in the 90’s my tuition increased so it’s hardly a new phenomena either.

  • Anonymous

    I think a lot of ya’ll are saying UDC = bad school because you’re racist and that’s how you say it..

    Have you even been there? Checked out some classes? UDC is no longer open-enrollment.

    They have a community college for students not yet ready for a 4-year education, but those classes and professors are away from classes required for 4 year students.

    It’s great for non-traditional students like myself. I think that if you stopped badmouthing the university and actually sat in on some classes, you would agree. It’s the same as my previous school, and even has many professors from HU, American, Georgetown, & GW, my previous university.

    • Anonymous

      hhmmm. thats a leap. everyone knows that howard is a black university and i’ve never heard anyone disparage howard.

    • Ragged Dog

      Umm, where on this blog do you get people saying “UDC = bad school”?

      • Ragged Dog

        And I think anyone with a degree from UDC would be horrified by your sentence structure and logic.

  • Newtonite

    My husband who is a Latino immigrant attends UDC in what is now the community college as part of the hospitality program(although it wasn’t a separate college when he first began). He attends UDC for the following reasons: geographical convenience, price, and program availability (Montgomery College’s hospitality program is in Rockville).

    As a former director of an adult ESL school, I transferred many foreign students to UDC for the same reasons, especially price. These are well-educated students who came on student visas. Because their work opportunities are limited on that visa, they need affordable educational opportunities like UDC provides (but yes, the tuition for them was also raised dramatically in the past year).

    While he has had some disappointing classes, most of his classes have been good and he feels that that they will serve him when he opens his own restaurant. However, in regards to quality, I can also say the same thing about my grad classes at GW. I also have had some very disappointing classes there (probably more than my husband has had), so poor preparation is not limited to UDC.

  • andy

    well any discussions of universities are bound to be elitist as universities are how you climb into the elite in this country.

    • Anonymous

      of course there will be elitism when discussing centers of higher education. we should always have concepts of what is better and what is not.

      you may not like it, but if we didn’t have anything that was elite, this wouldn’t be much of a country. or city.

      • Ragged Dog

        There’s a really snarky comment in there somewhere about DC’s “elite”.

  • dcdude

    While higher tuitions are never fun, this group’s complaints seem a bit disingenuous. The tuition increases are due to the fact that UDC is trying to move its undergraduate program away from the community college model. They no longer have open enrollment, and they’re investing more money in salaries and infrastructure to try to turn UDC into a competitive four-year university. This is not free. As others have pointed out, UDC has created a separate community college, with tuition at $100 per credit hour. Somehow, all of this is conveniently left out of the group’s complaint.

  • can a university be gentrified?
    i went to a college that you had to be poor to attend. there are income caps for admissions and they charge no tuition.
    if my school were to start accepting middle class and rich students, and poor people were no longer getting into the school, i might call that gentrification.

  • Hmmmm

    Oh man, this is pretty sad. But not so surprising, really. Many people don’t like demographic change. The mixed neighborhood I grew up in became black in only a few years, as most of the white people left for things having to do with “crime.” Often, white people don’t feel comfortable talking about race, so they come up with great euphemisms instead. “Ghetto” is a good one. I never heard anyone say they were moving because of the blacks, but there was no need to say it. It was understood.

    As for UDC, I understand that it’s strange to watch the racial demographics that you’re accustomed to change, especially when you’re a minority in an environment with a lot of other minorities. You’ve found a little comfort zone in a world where you often stand out like a sore thumb. And black people don’t seem as touchy about race as white people, so I’m not surprised that some vocal group of black students would band together and in very clear terms denounce the changing racial structure of the school, being careful to couch their language in terms of their own victimization. (Some people do this about Hispanics, I notice. It’s never the brown people they don’t like; it’s the law breaking and the taking away of jobs.)

    Of course, this letter is influenced by racism however the students want to frame it, in much the same way as white flight and anti-immigrant sentiments are laced with racist undertones as well. And it sucks to be on the end of a crazy racist rant.

    On the other hand, these people won’t prevail. You can’t stop black folks from moving onto your block. You can’t stop people from Latin America from coming to the United States. And you can’t stop white people from going to a historically black, and well regarded, law school.

    So, you know, I wouldn’t give these angry folks too much credence. Their complaint will go nowhere. And if they can’t adapt to the multiracial realities of modern life in Washington, D.C., then these kids (I’m assuming they’re undergrads) are going to have some seriously tough times in the future.

  • True

    I went to UDC and before I graduated they bought up the ideas of dramatic tuition increases. That 3k+ amount for the 4 year program in a little less than 3 yrs ago would have covered 2 semesters there. Thats one thing.

    Another thing someone mentioned the law program, well the law program is smaller than the actual university, that program had gotten a brand new library while the rest of the school had the same run down facilities.

    While school wide the bathrooms needed to be ungraded they spent a lot of money on upgrades no needed like motion sensor soap, paper towel dispensers that broke most of the time. we were still using old computers in the computer science program while many of us just settling for bringing our own laptop from home.

    The school got a new dean whom from what I was to understand left his previous school under some sort of money missing issues and took the post at UDC and instituted a lot of changes. I say all this to say that UDC as a whole has a lot of staff that don’t care, and that rubs off on the students attitude. They shouldn’t tear it down, but take a little more pride in the school. They don;t want to call it DC’s office college but still bears the name.


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