WASHINGTON, DC—Anne D. Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, issued the following statement today regarding the University of the District of Columbia’s reform plans spotlighted in today’s Washington Post:
UDC’s mission is to offer “broad opportunities for a diverse student population” by preparing them to become “productive citizens with marketable skills.” But it has so far failed to reach that goal. The graduation rates speak for themselves: only five percent of students graduate in four years—a number which only rises to 16 percent over eight years. UDC president Allen Sessoms has rightly described the latter as an “abomination.”
The recently announced plan to split into a four-year university and a community college will allow the university to fulfill its mission. The community college will have an open enrollment policy to ensure accessibility, while the four-year university will focus on a strong, college-level, undergraduate curriculum. It is an excellent plan that all friends of higher education should support.
UDC’s efforts to improve itself bring to mind the City University of New York’s impressive turnaround in the last decade. Facing many of the same problems, CUNY—under the leadership of chancellor Matthew Goldstein and board chairmen Herman Badillo and Benno Schmidt—raised academic standards and reformed remedial education. Contrary to what critics predicted, enrollment has soared and CUNY is enjoying a nationally recognized renaissance. If President Sessoms and the UDC trustees hold fast, I suspect we will be saying the same of UDC.
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is an independent non-profit dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality and accountability. Since its founding in 1995, ACTA has counseled boards, educated the public and published reports about such issues as good governance, historical literacy, core curricula, the free exchange of ideas and accreditation in higher education.