Why UDC’s Students Are Upset

While the Feb. 12 Metro story “Students Fume at Tuition Proposal” represented the issue fairly, some of the most germane points made by students were missing.

I’m an alumnus of the University of the District of Columbia. If not for UDC’s open enrollment and affordable tuition, I would not have been able to finish my degree program with no loan to repay and would not be working at one of the most reputable think tanks in the United States.

UDC President Allen Sessoms was quoted in the story as likening education to a commodity to be bought and sold, saying, “If you’re getting something at very low cost and someone says you have to pay full market value, I wouldn’t like it, either.” In several eloquent and appropriate responses, students asserted that education is a right and should not be turned into a privilege available only to those who can pay for it.

Educated citizens are the ticket to a more vibrant and robust society. It was with that in mind that UDC was created — to help those with greater challenges so that they could receive higher education. While the strapped economy and the District’s budget shortfall are given as reasons that students should accept paying more, the issue is the opposite. Regular, working-class people, the demographic of UDC students, are hardest hit by the economic woes. When will they receive a bailout instead of a bill?

Netfa Freeman directs the Social Action & Leadership School for Activists, which provides affordable courses covering all aspects of grassroots activism, at the Institute for Policy Studies.