D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the city council have named and confirmed Lewis Ferebee as the District’s new public schools chancellor. All eyes will be upon him to transform the District’s public schools with the ultimate goal of increasing high school graduation rates of students prepared to take the next step in higher education or in the workforce.
Which is why Ferebee’s job doesn’t end at the other side of the graduation stage. His partner in growing young school-aged children into productive and successful adults is Ronald F. Mason, president of the University of the District of Columbia. And, Mason is laser-focused on why and how UDC must become the “first choice” for local students who want to pursue a higher education including those that lack financial resources and support to attend school out of state.
Mason has been traversing the city, promoting UDC’s strategic plan that’s called The Equity Imperative, “designed to regenerate” UDC as a “public higher education model of urban success.” This plan, adopted by the UDC community, will address UDC’s lack of student housing, old technology, insufficient personnel resources, 50-year old infrastructure, outdated classrooms, low enrollment rates and low graduation rates.
For UDC to achieve its mission, the administration, faculty and students are depending on the Mayor and the Council, along with its alumni, to support the plan and increase funding by the tune of $71.4 million in operational investment and $723.5 million in capital investment.
There is no doubt that UDC has been grossly underfunded throughout its existence. Nearly every council member and the mayor have noted this in a speech somewhere along the way. On the other hand, Bowser is showing overtures that she wants to do more for UDC by providing increased funding while realizing the critical role UDC can and should play in reducing poverty and making D.C. the Number 1 highly-educated city. Currently, DC ranks as the 2nd most highly-educated city in America but there is a tremendous gap between white and Black residents with college degrees, with Blacks ranging more than two-thirds of D.C. residents without a college degree.
UDC can do much to change that if the powers that be insist that UDC is included in D.C. schools’ continuum of education and with support of its strategic plan. Doing so will make UDC’s mission probable: to produce lifelong learners who are transformative leaders in the workforce, government, nonprofit sectors and beyond.