Fixing DC’s Community College

Earlier this year the District of Columbia finally got a community college, the Community College of the District of Columbia (or CCDC). A few welcomed this institution as a positive, or at least interesting, development for DC. The problem was that the new community college was linked to the Distinct of Columbia’s existing state (or district or city or something) university, the chronically troubled UDC.

The creation of the community college happened when UDC separated itself into two different entities, a 2-year, open admission community college and an 4-year school. Well it’s not working, say DC business leaders. Earlier this week the leaders issued a report, “ Building a Strong, Independent DC Community College” (pdf), which stated the schools should separate, at least in part because UDC:

Has been troubled by a distrustful faculty, high administrative overhead, poorly maintained and outdated facilities, chronic mismanagement and internal dissension, and unacceptably low completion and graduation rates. While some programs had demonstrable success, it is not clear that many of UDC’s two-year and workforce preparation programs had satisfactory results, and they had not proven adequate to meet the needs of District residents or employers.

While the report viewed the creation of a community college in DC—for years, oddly, one of America’s only major cities without one—it does not appear that UDC is really the appropriate place to house the community college. At least in part this is because the university does not command much respect in the district.

It should be noted that the situation at CCDC is the exact reverse of the general recipe for community colleges success, which makes use of close arrangements with four-year schools to make credit-transfer easy. This just goes to show that community colleges are, after all, a function of their communities.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer