District’s public college to offer student housing for first time

For the first time in its history, D.C.’s only public college will offer housing to its students, in hopes of creating a more traditional college experience for the university’s commuter students.

The University of the District of Columbia, or UDC, opened its first dormitory rooms this semester. The apartment building is around a block from the UDC campus and houses about 90 students.

UDC spokesman Alan Etter said the school plans to build two 300-person residence halls within the next year or so.

“The idea was to create a real college experience,” Etter said of the residences, adding that UDC is trying in the long-term to provide a level of college experience similar to schools like Georgetown and GW.

“We want everybody in D.C. to come here,” Etter said. “We have to act like a state university.”

While D.C. isn’t a state, UDC is the District’s only fully-accredited public higher education institution, and it was chartered in 1974.

UDC is known as a commuter school, much like GW used to be a few decades ago.

Located in Northwest D.C. near the Van Ness Metro station , UDC’s flagship campus has four-year programs and graduate programs. UDC also has a community college program located near Union Station.

With on-campus growth, Etter said UDC is trying to retain more of its students and increase enrollment. Currently the school has a single-digit retention rate.

Etter said providing the on-campus housing was part of giving UDC students “that same level of opportunity” as other D.C. schools.

UDC’s growth isn’t without controversy, however. Students protested a proposed increase in tuition last year, but in February 2009 the school’s board of trustees approved the measure anyway.

Tuition was increased in fall 2009 and then increased again this fall, bringing yearly tuition for D.C. residents up from $3,800 to about $7,000. Yearly tuition for non-residents is now $14,000.

The cost for students to stay in the new dormitory rooms is about $4,200 a semester.

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