• Almost anything would be an improvement over today’s building.

    Hopefully the education improves as much as the building.

  • anon

    Ugh…please no. Reasonable people can look at the facts of the issue and come to the same conclusion. The fact is that a UDC degree means less than one from an online degree mill like “phoneix online”.

    The UDC 6 year graduation rate is a whopping 19%. UDC is probably the only “higher learning” institution with a lower graduation rate than the DC public schools.

    Add on top of that, that most of their programs have fallen in and out of accreditation the past 20 years, a degree from UDC is literally not worth the paper it is printed on. UDC doesn’t even rank among other universities or community colleges.

    Of the ~5,000 students currently enrolled in UDC, only 950 will leave with a degree.

    Tuition for a full time undergrad at UDC costs just over $5K a year, $7K a year for a full time grad student. DC taxpayers give (and it is in this years budget as well) 50 million a year to suppliment UDC.

    Thats a per student subsidy of $10,000 per year, when it only costs $7K for a full time grad students tuition, which the students themselves are ALREADY paying.

    Look at it this way, with the 19% graduation rate, the DC taxpayers are paying $210K per graduating student, PER YEAR! With that kind of outlay, we should just pay the full freight for any DC student who gets into the Ivy League.

    NVCC, UMUC etc are all exponentionally better schools in every metric used to judge places of “higher ed”.

    Here is what I have been recommending for years.

    DC admit UDC is a failure and has been for decades and quit shoveling truckloads of money down this bottomless hole.

    The trade off is that DC becomes the nations most higher education progressive place on the planet (save for dubai).

    DC offers to pay FULL tuition for a period not to exceed 4 years for any resident that gets accepted to ANY school in the nation.

    Most will go to local community colleges like NOVA, UMD etc, which is still immesley cheaper than the $10K a year per student that we are already spending and offer far more valuable and recognizable educations than does UDC.

    We save trucks of money, DC students get free rides to more highly regarded places. DC gets a huge piece of uber valueable real estate back on top of a metro line that when redeveloped will add tens of millions a year to the DC treasury. Everyone wins.

    Bu the first step is realizing UDC is worthless.

    • Anonymous

      Damn. I like the color of your jib.

      I know nothing about this issue, but you make a pretty good argument.

      The only thing I will say is that in a perfect world I would like DC to have a great community college. I think it would be a lot easier for a lot of people to get to a community college inside the city limits and right on top of a metro. And I believe a world class city should have a world class education system.

      Now, I know the world isn’t perfect. And you make great points. Ideally I would like the DC government to spend tons of money on a community college and have it be GREAT. Anyone have any idea how to do that?

    • That makes a lot of sense. Plus DC residents can already get in-state tuition at any state school nationwide.

      DC government has improved immensely over the past 20 years, but education is something that they spectacularly fail at.

      • Anonymous

        Reciprocity is only applicable for undergrads.

    • Andrew

      Sure, if the only purpose of a state university is a diploma generator. UDC has plenty of problems, but land-grant universities like it serve an important role for research and a community resource.

      UDC has a number of self-perpetuating problems, but they can be solved with time and effort. Sending our students to other states is a recipe for brain drain. (And more policy majors coming here to attend private colleges won’t make up for it for building a diverse economy.)

      • Anonymous

        Tight pants and tacky sunglasses are not irony, talking about UDC and brain drain is irony!

    • My father taught at UDC for about six years after retiring from DoD. From his experience, the problem with UDC is not UDC, but DC Public Schools. The kids who come into UDC simply do not have adequate abilities for college classes. My father was teaching remedial math to kids who didn’t even know the basics of addition and subtraction. His kids were almost always eager to learn, but they also had to balance being working adults with the fact they were so far behind on their education already.

      Sending these kids off to NVCC, UMUC or Montgomery College isn’t going to work. They simply won’t be able to function there. If they could, they would already be going there (or, more likely, UMCP or George Mason). The only way to fix UDC is to fix the DC school system first.

    • the obvious

      “Thats a per student subsidy of $10,000 per year…Look at it this way, with the 19% graduation rate, the DC taxpayers are paying $210K per graduating student”

      Your math is horrible. Did you go to UDC?

      And LOL at thinking we should send everyone currently planning on attending UDC to an Ivy. Yeah, *that* will get those graduation numbers up. SMH.

      • You misread the post. $50 million / 5,000 students = $10,000 per student. ($50 million / 950 graduates) X 4 years = $210,000 per graduate.

        Regardless of what you think of his/her analysis and proposed solution, the math is fine.

        • the obvious

          “You misread the post. $50 million / 5,000 students = $10,000 per student. ($50 million / 950 graduates) X 4 years = $210,000 per graduate.”

          The point is, that’s not the kind of math you use when evaluating educational spending…first of all, the stat the OP used was that 19% of the students in UDC now will graduate in six years, which is where you get your 950 number. Over that six years, if we assumed the spending for the tuition supplement stays steady (which it won’t, it’ll likely go up), that’s 50 million a year over the six years it takes that 19% to graduate, or $300 million, not $50 million. The money keeps adding up annually, it doesn’t stop at this year.

          Of course, this calculation doesn’t take into account a number of other factors: students who don’t finish at UDC within six years may very well transfer to a community college for an associates degree, finish their bachelors at another four year or return to UDC later in life, so you don’t really have an accurate stat on how many UDC freshmen end up getting degrees. Further, students with some college typically earn more than students with just a high school diploma. Further, I’m willing to bet that UDC graduates are more likely to stay within the city longer than graduates from other universities (especially since they disproportionately come from DC originally in the first place), which means more income tax revenue. This conversation is way more complicated than the OP to whom I responded indicates, math included.

  • Anonymous

    It’s an improvement, but UDC really screwed up when they decided against taking over the old St. Elizabeths campus and establishing a full-fledged university a couple of decades ago.

    • Mike

      If not St. E’s, I would like to see a real University campus on the Walter Reed property ‘tween 16th & Georgia Ave NW.

      • Anonymous

        why not leave it at van ness?

    • bb

      Since Congress in its “wisdom” has zeroed out the funding for Homeland Security’s rehabilitation of St E’s for the foreseeable future, perhaps UDC would still have a shot…

  • Kaitlin

    I actually took a pre-requisite class at UDC for my graduate school program and was pleasantly surprised at how good the class was. My professor was very knowledgeable and I actually learned a ton (not to mention it was much less expensive than taking the course at GW or Georgetown). I’m not saying I’d want to get a degree from UDC, but I think there is a place for it and it serves a roll in the community.

    • anon

      But at what cost?

      We’ve been “trying” to save UDC for decades.

      Sure, a “few” people a year graduate from UDC, take a class to prep them for another school, but I am sorry. The place is a sad, sad money pit of educational despair and has been for the 25 years I’ve lived in the District.

      On top of the 50 million a year we allocate for them in the budget, the District has handed over, free of charge tens of millions of dollars of (taxpayer)real estate. I mean, where does it end?

      You and I pay $210,000 dollars per graduating student, per year. Surely you can agree that it is obscene, considering the abysmally low quality of the education received.

      DC is a tiny place, it is chock full of universities and there are literally dozens of campuses of community colleges (NVCC, UMUC etc) within metrorail reach. It doesn’t need to recreate the wheel with its own “community college”.

      Based on UDC’s graduation numbers, lets assume that the District has ~1,000 students, or adults taking classes who have the wherewithal to apply to any of the numerous options they have for community colleges and who would actually graduate per year.

      We could allocate an outrageous $25K per student per year (a ridiculously high sum considering the actual cost of community college, but I am making a point) to pay their full freight. They get a completely free education from an organization with a recognizable degree, aren’t burdened by debt and the District taxpayer gets to save ~25 million a year.

      • You make some good points, but wouldn’t we have to offer the $25k to the other 4,000 students who currently don’t graduate from UDC, assuming that we can’t predict in advance who will and who won’t graduate? I mean, the benefit would have to be offered to all who want it, and currently 5,000 students, not 1,000, are enrolled at UDC. That would greatly up the cost.

        Regardless, I agree that DC is wasting its money on UDC. We are too small to support a decent four-year public university. That’s why we have the credit for students who go to state institutions elsewhere. A good vocational school would be a better use of resources than UDC.

        • Andrew

          Tell that to the University of Wyoming and the state’s seven community colleges.

          Or the eleven public colleges in North Dakota.

          We aren’t going to create Berkeley or Chapel Hill on Connecticut Avenue, but small states can have strong state schools.

          • Disgusted in DC

            The University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople fer’ instance?

          • Anon

            e.g. University of Delaware

        • anon

          There are some details that need to be worked out.

          I would start by only reimbursing the costs at the end of the semester when they’ve proven they have passed the class, like any employer does to ensure the money isn’t being wasted on someone who isn’t serious or applying themselves.

          If we are worried about getting folks started, we could offer each District resident (who applys and proves acceptance somewhere) a one time upfront $2,500 dollar grant to help them pay for their first class/books etc.

          Secondly, I made the $25K per year number heinously high to make a point. Northern Virginia Community Colleges, one of the best in the nation charges (out of state) $3,750 per year for a 4 class load, or 15,000 dollars for a full 4 year degree. Basically, my number is 7 times higher than need be. UMUC etc have similar tuition.

          There are a myriad of ways to do this so that:
          1. DC becomes THE example for higher education in the entire planet.
          2. DC residents save a cargo ship full of money every year.

      • I would love to know where the dozens of community college campuses near metrorail in MD and VA are located! Both the Rockville and Silver Spring campuses of Montgomery College require taking a bus (Silver Spring is technically walkable, but it’s a long walk that feels sketchy at night) and the same goes for PGCC.

  • Larry

    A new facade is not going to change the graduation rate.
    It might make dollars and sense to focus the time and energy to improving the quality of the education and programs.

  • I won’t interlope into this debate to much, but I’d just like to add some points:
    – I’ve lived in the DC area but not in DC for 18 years.
    – I’ve followed the many debates about the existence of UDC and anon makes good points.
    – I’ve long thought that DC residents would be best served by a good community college system rather than a four-year institution.
    – I once considered relocating to the District, but decided not to due to the lack of pubic education options for adults.
    – I subsequently earned a masters at a neighboring state university, and earned about 36 credits at community college, both at “in-state” tuition rates.
    – I think judging any community college on the basis of graduation rates is a bit unfair. Community colleges function as starting points to transfer to other institutions, or just to take some classes to satisfy an interest or curiosity, or to learn some new skills to enhance your employability. Getting the piece of paper isn’t always the point.
    – The instructors I had in my community college experience were largely excellent. In a lot of ways my CC experience was more valuable than my graduate school experience.
    – In response to one commentor, there are no NVCC campuses that are metro accessible. That is one weakness of their system. A small amount of leased space in Ballston does not count.
    – In the long term, sending kids to college is important, but DC needs to think seriously about educational options for working adults at reasonable tuition rates. This is important for retaining residents who will need to update their skill sets from time to time.
    – UDC-CC is a start in the right direction.
    – Back to the original topic, the building is an improvement over what is there.

  • Anonymous

    The renderings look awesome. I think its a well needed facelift for the University and something the kids can take pride in. The recent improvements to the courtyard are just as nice too. Pop you should show those before and after pics. Im currently enrolled at UDC taking pre reqs for med school and Im glad my tuition is going towards improving the school.

  • Are the architectural changes seen in the drawings above being made to existing buildings, or are they building additions in front of the existing buildings to create a more attractive street-level appearance? The current buildings give the FBI a run for its money for title of being the ugliest in DC, so yes, anything is an improvement.

    As for UDC as a school, I took a higher-level math class there last year as pre-req for grad school and was not impressed — my experiences taking 2 similar level classes at Montgomery College were good and excellent, so the class at UDC was very disappointing in comparison.

    Sometimes I wonder if the only way to fix institutions like this is to (metaphorically) tear them down and rebuild them from scratch — i.e. recreate UDC as a community college and keep only those faculty and staff who are interested in developing UDC into a truly outstanding college (and being held accountable for their performance), and then once it is successful it could then expand to begin offering some 4-year degrees. I think that community colleges are going to play a growing role in higher ed in this country, particularly because so many jobs today require more than a high school education, but not every person needs to get a 4-year college degree (and given the precarious position of middle and working class families today, the reality is that many are unable to afford a 4-year degree).

  • RozCat

    UDC has its student success stories and a 19% graduation rate is actually par for the course city colleges. Too many unprepared DCPS students though are being steered there with aimless intentions. CCDC hopefully will help some of that.

  • margaret

    The history of the UDC campus is really interesting, when you think about it. It is the old campus for the Washington Technical Institute, a primarily black public college that was founded in 1966. Imagine the message the school was sending by building an all-black campus in the Brutalist style in the Northwest during the Civil Rights era and the DC riots.

    I think building a new student center that literally hides the Brutalist buildings, and all of the inherited and implied meaning of those buildings, is a savvy political move.

  • Patrick

    The 19% graduation rate does not account for:

    1. The hundreds of students who begin their postsecondary education at UDC and transfer out; or

    2. The hundreds of students who use the federally funded DC Tuition Assistance Grant voucher to attend out-of-state public institutions, drop out, return to the District and eventually finish their degree at UDC.

    Graduation rates are notoriously poor measures of an institution’s success. As presently derived, they do not capture a student’s degree completion unless he or she was enrolled in the same institution on the first day of classes in the fall semester of his or her freshman year. See, e.g.,


    UDC, though much maligned over the years, plays a key role in providing access to higher education for thousands of District residents. Of District residents currently enrolled in a postsecondary institution, an overwhelming majority of them are UDC students. Dismissing UDC as unnecessary and unfixable assumes these students either do not need (or deserve?) a college degree or that they have the means to seek it elsewhere.

    Finally, as noted in a previous post, the DC Tuition Assistance Grant voucher program is only available to first-time undergraduate students under the age of 24. In other words, the “traditional” college student (who, by the way, no longer makes up the majority of college-goers). UDC is the only low-cost, accessible option for the non-traditional student looking to go to, or go back to, college in the District.

    Any complaints against the public cost of providing affordable education to District residents should be weighed against the long-term cost of providing job training programs, wage subsidies, low income tax credits, welfare payments, Medicaid contributions, uncompetitive first-source requirements and a large public employee workforce (unless you are planning on hiring a DCPS high school graduate with no postsecondary education…).

    UDC needs reform. Everyone from the Mayor, to the Council, to the Board of Trustees, to the President, to junior faculty members knows this and is taking concrete, objectively measurable steps to improve the UDC educational experience and deliver a more cost-effective degree. The public discourse the institution is subject to, good or bad, the better.

  • Petworth Queen Forever

    Nice improvement but I would prefer this type of financial investment be placed into establishing a comprehensive online program similar to that of UMUC. With distant learning options being the biggest trend in overall education, an online program at UDC will provide additional options for the residents of DC to have an affordable on line experience which will increase/expedite the attainability of college degrees.

    The education at UDC is not the problem, it’s the years of bureaucratic bull shit and financial mismanagement that has taken a toll on the University. UDC provides a solid education to anyone who is willing to attend the university. With it a being a unique institution that is a full fledged university combined with a community college aspect within, people on the outside will never see how much of an asset it is.

    UDC’s biggest accomplishment is taking swarms of remedial students and turning them into college graduates. It may not happen in 4 years but it happens. That is worth more than any price tag people try to place on it continuing its operation.

    SIDE NOTE: Many universities offer remedial classes. Also, the graduation rate calculation is not the best indicator of progress at UDC due to it being based on only people who register as full-time freshman during their first year. It doesn’t account for the HUGE part time population that universities such as UDC has.

    • margaret

      On-line education has many problems associated with it — primarily, it is inadequate for the student who does not possess, and must learn, the technological competencies that are required to navigate on-line course management systems. This is not as easy at it sounds. Also, it does not take into account that many poor and low-income students are not able to pay for, and therefore cannot access, the tools necessary to take an online class, such as an internet connection and a computer.

      However, since the overhead is low for online courses, it is strongly touted as a means of “equality” in access to higher education.

      • Anonymous

        There are tons of students at UDC that are not remedial students and are quite capable of learning ” the technological competencies that are required to navigate on-line course management systems”. Please do not confuse UDC’s remedial student population with their tons of students that never required any level of remediation. Even if a student is in need of remediation in let’s say math doesn’t mean they are not capable of following an on line format.

        UMUC has tons of students that are taking remedial classes, just as NOVA, PGCC, MCC, etc. However, UMUC and all of the community colleges listed above have comprehensive online course offerings in addition to the fact they all also serve a high population of “poor and low-income students”.

        Regardless of the factors mention above, if UDC had an on-line program, it could attract even more students. There is no reason why UDC is not training DC Government workers. Distant Learning options are one of the most sought out tools older students are looking for when attending universities. UDC is behind the times and should invest more into catching up with them instead of building/renovating more satellite campuses.

      • Petworth Queen Forever

        ^^^^^Re-posted since my above post lacked my name. ^^^^^^

        There are tons of students at UDC that are not remedial students and are quite capable of learning ” the technological competencies that are required to navigate on-line course management systems”. Please do not confuse UDC’s remedial student population with their tons of students that never required any level of remediation. Even if a student is in need of remediation in let’s say math doesn’t mean they are not capable of following an on line format.

        UMUC has tons of students that are taking remedial classes, just as NOVA, PGCC, MCC, etc. However, UMUC and all of the community colleges listed above have comprehensive online course offerings in addition to the fact they all also serve a high population of “poor and low-income students”.

        Regardless of the factors mention above, if UDC had an on-line program, it could attract even more students. There is no reason why UDC is not training DC Government workers. Distant Learning options are one of the most sought out tools older students are looking for when attending universities. UDC is behind the times and should invest more into catching up with them instead of building/renovating more satellite campuses.

  • Jeffrey Suiter

    This awesome. UDC actually has a beautiful campus and I think it will be great to see how they incorporate some of the old architectural design with more modern and flashy facade.

    BTW…UDC is not worthless. Comments about UDC being worthless, or they should sell the land, or folks could go to community college in Maryland seems to reflect to me a certain level of racial bias, privilege and most importantly classim.

    Attending school outside of the district creates new obstacles and challenges which discourages unprepared students from pursuing their educational goals.

    I attended UDC part-time for 3 years and was taught by professors who taught at GW, AU, UM, GM and so forth, but (at the time) i paid tremendously less in tuition… you can get a damn good education from UDC.

    Yes in many ways the school is out dated and performance standards are low, but these challenges aren’t insurmountable. There simple has to be the will to want better for the university and its students form all its residents and not just the few who’ve know first hand about the story behind the statistics.

    What doesn’t help is reading or hearing that your institution is worthless…point out the weak spots and offering solutions that address those weakness is by far more productive.

    The benefits of having a land-grant institution is that it ensure (as least in theory) that ALL resident have the opportunity for social mobility…this is why UDC is not for sale. Simply shifting the responsibility off to Maryland, VA, or University of Phoenix (which receives no reciprocity nationally) maintains a system that divides the city into two groups of the haves and have nots…

    I didn’t graduate for UDC but I’m currently completing my doctorate because of my time at UDC…education is not simply about graduating its about preparing students to face whatever challenges the world throws in their direction and UDC has taught me that. Far from worthless.

  • Anonymous

    I took undergrad algebra, pre-calculus, and basic accounting at UMUC in the recent past (algebra on a Thursday night over Summer 2011, accounting on a Saturday morning over Summer 2011, and pre-calculus on a Thursday night during the fall of 2011) in preparation for going back to school to get my MBA (I already have my BA in humanities and needed to polish up math skills). It was eye-opening to say the least.

    Around 1/2 of the students were ex- or current-military and probably spending military education benefits.

    Each class had about 40 students to start. In each case, after the first class, attendance immediately dropped by 50% or more except for required exam days. On some days, we would only have 10 people show up. Also in each case, a solid chunk of the class time was spent on people whining and moaning about how hard the work was and how they didn’t understand it and how could they possibly pass since the professor was moving so quickly etc. What they didn’t understand is that you cannot learn math without practicing problems. There is no way around that. Even the most exceptional math teacher can only make the subject clear enough to enable you to solve the problems that allow you to actually learn how to do the math. It requires commitment and hard work, which was sorely lacking in my fellow students. Many of them clearly felt that the act of spending their benefits on the class should be enough to get the credit, and that asking them to actually work on problems was an absurd and insulting additional requirement that was out of the question for them.

    Also, it was transparently obvious that these folks didn’t do any of the assigned (but not turned in) homework. Listening to the conversations before class and during break, it was clear that the students had plenty of time to do the work if they felt like doing so (despite loudly claiming to the professor that their work and family obligations made this impossible).

    It was a very disappointing experience. Prior to this, I had been in the camp of pushing to get as many people into college as possible, and offering them remedial training (like the algebra class). However, seeing this, it was clear that people need to WANT to take remedial classes for them to work, and if they really WANT to take them now they can already find a way. Simply improving access, or lower costs, does not actually solve this problem. In fact, it probably makes things worse, by widening the net of people who are somehow convinced that they SHOULD have a college degree but are not focused on actually doing the work to make it happen. If someone is not intrinsically motivated to succeed in college, there is literally nothing we can do with policy or tax dollars to help them. For example, a lot of the people spending their military benefits were not financially invested in their own success, which reflected in their results.

    I shudder to think of the kind of results that flow from subsidizing ONLINE “education.” It infuriates me that a penny of tax dollars goes to this. I am absolutely certain that at least 95% of subsidized online “education” is worthless.

    I might add that the professors were actually quite good, even in comparison to the tenured professors that taught me at my expensive private undergraduate school. But they were clearly sick and tired of dealing with people endlessly complaining about how hard they were while refusing to lift a finger to learn the subject.

    • It’s unfortunate that you choose to paint all online education with the same brush. There are plenty of excellent online degree programs that should not be lumped in with the Strayer University-type profit mills. My online M.S. program is quite good.

      • Anonymous

        did i paint them “all” with the same brush? No, I am talking about the idea of online courses being a workable option for people in need of remedial education who are getting their degrees subsidized by the government.

        • Petworth Queen Forever

          When it comes to learning in general, it’s always up to the individual if they are going to do the required work to understand different subject matters. Regardless if it’s in the class room or on-line, money is wasted if the individual doesn’t want to commit to learning. So the experience that you had on-line is often repeated in the physical class room even at advanced levels.

  • anon

    New campus, same crappy education!

    • Petworth Queen Forever

      How would you know? Did you attend the university or are you one of those people that base his/her opinion off of the tons of misinformation that’s out there?

      • Anon

        The results (or lack thereof) speak for themselves. All of the metrics show that UDC is a horrible use of scarce resources. DC is full of good universities and any non-remedial student will go elsewhere. Moreover, other schools such as the Graduate School USA fill the need for professional training. If you want UDC to make up for the poor quality of DC’s public schools, fine, but the current system is a boondaggle that wastes money.


Subscribe to our mailing list