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Transforming and Reinventing UDC for Generations of Students to Come


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Answers to Recent Questions

May 10, 2011

In response to questions raised about tuition money going towards the president's residence:

A key and critical point to know: Tuition is never spent on any UDC capital project. Capital projects, such as building repairs and maintenance, are paid for through District of Columbia allocated funds. UDC has owned the president’s residence since 1981. Over those 30 years not all repairs were handled in a prompt fashion and the deferred maintenance resulted in significant work being required. The cost of continuing to defer maintenance generally far outpaces the actual cost of repairs done in a timely fashion. The UDC presidential home is a university asset. President Sessoms is required to live there and does so with his family. He conducts official business on behalf of the university at his home, which is an extension of his office.

When thinking about the cost of tuition to UDC students, which is not affected in any way by home repairs, it’s important to keep in mind that every UDC student is subsidized by the District of Columbia. The full cost of a UDC education is approximately $11,000 per year per student.  UDC students instead pay $7,000, and Community College DC students pay $3,000. Again, not one UDC student pays the full cost of his or her education.

It may be helpful to know what tuition is at other local universities, some public, some private:

InstitutionIn-State TuitionOut-of-State Tuition
University of the District of Columbia$ 3,000 - 7,000$ 3,000 - 14,000
George Washington42,90542,905
Catholic University35,26035,260
University of Virginia10,83633,782
Howard University8,550 - 17,5058,550 - 17,505
University of Maryland8,41624,831
Towson State7,65619,114
George Mason University8,48425,248
James Madison8,44821,738
Bowie State6,15416,678

So - when you compare this data, you see UDC is more affordable than every other comparable four-year state university in the region except Bowie State. Tuition was increased two years ago to help improve academic offerings and student services. And again - tuition has nothing to do with what it costs to repair university-owned buildings.  Even with the increase, no one pays the full cost of their education.  Financial aid is widely available to help students cover these costs.

April 26, 2011

UDC has received recent inquiries about the university’s presidential residence—the university-owned home where President Sessoms currently resides. We would like to provide the university community with some background about the residence. First, a few key facts:

  • The university purchased the home in 1981. The residence, which is located in the District’s Chevy Chase neighborhood, was purchased to be the presidential residence.  President Sessoms is required by contract to live there and does not own the home.
  • The residence is used for receptions and other university-related functions, particularly in fundraising and other advancement functions.
  • UDC provides maintenance and upkeep for the home, as it does with other university-owned properties.

It is a common practice for universities to provide residences to their chief executives, in part because of fundraising demands. For example, 9 in 10 presidents of public universities either receive university-owned residences or housing allowances, according to a study by The Chronicle of Higher Education. (Please refer to this article from The Chronicle for more information about the compensation of public university presidents:

The house was unoccupied from 2006-8, and during this period the maintenance of the house and the property was not a priority.  As with any building, regular updates are required. Since President Sessoms’ occupancy began, a number of repairs had to be made, from routine maintenance to more structural needs.

When President Sessoms prepared to move in, in late 2008, several problems were discovered, including a leak in the roof that caused significant damage to an interior wall and several bookcases, cabinets and floors. Related repairs were necessary so that further damage could be stemmed and to allow President Sessoms to move in.

A retaining wall on the property had also been damaged and required serious repairs. A portion of the wall had collapsed into a neighbor’s yard because of a severe drainage problem and the neighbor understandably asked that the structure be fixed to prevent this from occurring again. The wall was repaired, and is now functioning properly.

As part of the university’s contractual maintenance of the home, it provides for regular housekeeping services, as it does with other university-owned properties. A UDC employee is assigned to the residence to perform housekeeping duties.

The careful use of university resources is a priority for UDC. We will continue to provide transparency around questions related to university expenditures, and will work to implement stronger financial controls and record-keeping.

More Answers to Questions can be found here.

April 14th, 2011

The financial audit President Sessoms requested is now complete.  A summary of the findings will be shared publicly once the University’s Board of Trustees has had a chance to review the document. Record-keeping procedures that pre-date President Sessoms have been or are being improved.  More accurate and transparent accounting procedures are being implemented. There have been preliminary and erroneous reports that the audit found President Sessoms took “luxury vacations.” This was not the case and in fact the president’s business travel advanced the standing of the university. Please continue to ask questions, and we will respond as soon as possible.

April 13th, 2011

We want to bring our community up to date on a couple of issues that transpired today.  First, Mayor Gray today announced six nominees to fill positions on our Board of Trustees.  These candidates bring the right amount of influence and affluence to get our system to the next level.  We thank the Mayor for his leadership on this issue, and we look forward to working with him and the Council in getting our Board fully staffed and operating.

Secondly, an update on the issue of the president's travel.  We realize there has been much interest in this topic, which has been featured in recent news coverage.  On Monday, the Audit Committee of the Board of Trustees submitted to the Board an audit of the president's travel expenditures.  It is a comprehensive examination of the process and how receipts and records are maintained.  The Board of Trustees is right now considering the contents of the report and its recommendations, which has been shared with the Office of the Mayor and the Chairman of the City Council.  Until the Board fully digests the report and determines how its recommendations can or should be implemented, it would be inappropriate for the president or university to comment.  However, it is appropriate to say generally the report offers some suggestions on how the process can be improved.  No one has been accused of purposely doing anything wrong or illegal.  We will have more to say in the coming days.

We are telling you this now because it has become apparent that copies of this audit have been delivered to news media.  You will likely begin seeing and hearing more reports on this situation.  Please refer to the answer page we have set up on the web site, which addresses the issues.

We have made tremendous progress in the last two years in moving our system forward.  You can all be proud of your accomplishments, and together we are poised to take our university system even higher.

April 12th, 2011

As you know, Dr. Sessoms recently ordered an audit into not only his own travel  expenses – but also how travel expenditures are handled university-wide.  Yesterday (Monday April 11, 2011), the auditor delivered her report to the audit committee of the UDC Board of Trustees.  It was accepted and is now being considered for future action.  The report was thorough and offered several recommendations.

The full report will be released in the next few days when the Board of Trustees has a chance to consider the findings and suggestions.  However, not surprisingly, the auditor told Trustees that there are deficiencies in how the university keeps track of expenses, receipts and reimbursement requests.  This is an on-going problem, not only for UDC – but for the city government in general.  It’s a problem the administration recognized early, and that’s why investment has been made in the Banner system, which should come on-line in October, 2011.  This system allows for direct digital posting of receipts, expenses and reimbursements.  This will allow for a much cleaner process moving forward.

No one has been accused of purposely doing anything wrong.  As shortcomings in systems are found, they are fixed as quickly as possible in a way that is transparent and fully accountable.

We understand the need to be prudent with university resources and to be transparent in all that we do. We are committed to building on the tremendous accomplishments of our campus community and the strides we have made—and continue to make—as we transform and reinvent this proud Washington institution for generations of students to come.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


1.       What is the university’s travel budget?

UDC’s overall travel expenditures last year were approximately $800,000. This amount includes all travel by roughly 200 staff and faculty members. Last year, as in most previous years, the university’s spending on travel was less than the amount budgeted.

2.       Why does President Sessoms travel?

Trips by President Sessoms and other university employees are required in order to expand UDC’s academic mission, to promote the university and to secure resources for it. His travel expenses last year accounted for less than 10 percent of the university’s travel budget.

3.       What was the purpose of President Sessoms’ trip to Egypt?

President Sessoms traveled to Cairo, Egypt, to visit the Modern Academy in Maadi. The trip was for oversight purposes and to meet with campus leaders and students. The program in Egypt both pays for itself and benefits the university. The university received approximately $250,000 in net revenue from the program last year. Furthermore, expenses related to the maintenance of the program are paid for by our Egyptian counterparts, so UDC spent nothing on this trip.

4.       Why did President Sessoms travel to Sunderland, England?

On his return trip from Egypt, President Sessoms stopped in England to meet with representatives of the University of Sunderland. This inexpensive visit was to strengthen an educational exchange agreement UDC has with the university, which is located in a sister city to Washington, D.C. The partnership allows our students to study abroad and facilitates faculty exchanges and other opportunities.

5.       Has UDC failed to keep track of travel expenses?

While President Sessoms and other university staff file receipts for their travel and other work-related expenses, the university’s record-keeping has been less than adequate at times. UDC has been working to upgrade its accounting system for the last two years. Improvements are constantly being made, and the university’s new accounting system will be fully installed in 2011.



1.       What is the new Community College and why was it created?

The Community College of the University of the District of Columbia was created to meet the long-time need for an institution in the District that serves a diverse student body from all social and economic backgrounds. It is a low cost and open-admissions institution focused on workforce development, technical and academic certifications, and academic associate degrees.

2.       Can students transfer from the Community College to UDC?

Credits earned at the Community College will be transferable to UDC. The Community College will also develop agreements with other area universities to ensure the smooth transfer of community college credits.

3.       What is UDC’s program review and what does it mean for students?

The program review is a set of university-wide and program-specific improvement strategies for implementation over the next 1-2 years to raise the quality and efficiency of all academic offerings. We are conducting internal and external reviews of every degree program’s curriculum, instruction, currency, and relevance to UDC’s mission and strategic plan. The goal is to provide students with a high-quality education, improve our ability to support students through to graduation, and to better prepare students for successful entry into, and upward mobility within, the workforce.

4.       Why is the university conducting this review now?

UDC, like most universities across the country, faces significant funding pressures on already limited resources. Without the resources to support an extensive array of small, specialized programs at a high level of quality, and with the future of UDC at stake, we must make tough choices.



1.       Why was tuition increased for undergraduate students at the university?

UDC continues to be the lowest cost, most accessible option in this region, and one of the most affordable and accessible in the country. But tuition increases were required to improve the university’s academic offerings. They are helping to finance better, student-centered, academic programs and student services focused on learning and personal development.

2.       Will UDC help students pay for this tuition increase?

The Office of Financial Aid fully expects to cover the cost of attendance for every student who receives financial aid. This will be accomplished through creating a financial aid package consisting of a combination of programs, including Pell grants, institutional grants, institutional scholarships, private scholarships and other federal grants and aid.



1.       Why did UDC pay bonuses to staff members when the D.C. City Council prohibited bonuses?

Bonuses received by UDC administrators were performance-related payments for 2009. The approval process for those bonuses takes time. So while the payments may have been received after 2009, they corresponded to work performed during that year. No performance bonuses were received for 2010.


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