But the name conflict belies a deeper conflict over the future of the District’s long-struggling system of public higher education, which underwent an upheaval in 2009 with the creation of the separate community college under UDC aegis.
That decision followed years, if not decades, of suggestions that the District would benefit from a separate community college focused on training District residents for the city’s workforce, rather than it become subsumed into the unwieldy, unfocused, oft-mismanaged institution UDC has become.
Like pretty much all interested parties, Sessoms supports independence, Etter said. But what form that independence will take and how soon it will happen has become a contentious matter, one that will be settled in the coming months. Will the community college be its own institution, with its own budget and board? Or will it be part of a “university system” headed by Sessoms and without its own board of trustees?
And if the community college is separate, how swiftly should it emerge from UDC’s maw?
Behind the scenes, Sessoms and the community college’s chief executive officer, Jonathan Gueverra, aren’t getting along, most observers agree, because Gueverra signed on to create a standalone school while Sessoms has sought to slow down the separation process. Some community college students have started to object to the slow-walk style, mounting an online petition drive to keep UDC from meddling with CCDC. But real obstacles remain to spinning off the community college — the accreditation process can take as long as five years, and without that in place, students would not be eligible for federal student aid.
Still, the political will is squarely on the side of an independent college.
The high-powered think tankers that sponsored the most rigorous and influential study of the issue — D.C. Appleseed and the Brookings Institution — have advocated that a community college needs to operate outside UDC’s control to reliably turn out graduates ready to fill the city’s jobs.