McKinsey & Company recommended last year that decision-making for Columbia College and several other schools be further integrated into the central Arts and Sciences administration, according to a summary of McKinsey’s report obtained by Spectator and verified by a professor familiar with it.
The consulting firm also suggested scaling back financial aid for some students and increasing enrollment in several revenue-generating degree programs, according to the summary. The professor familiar with the document stressed that McKinsey was only outlining possible strategies that Columbia could follow, and that the University is under no obligation to follow any of them.
Administrators have chosen not to implement most of the proposals outlined in the 13-page summary, although some of the recommendations—including changes to financial aid policy—are at least being considered.
But the document—which is dated July 27, 2011, and can be read in full here—sheds light on why philosophy professor Michele Moody-Adams resigned as Columbia College dean last year. The new administrative structures proposed in the summary would decrease the power of individuals schools’ deans, giving more authority to central A&S administrators on issues like budgeting, admissions, and financial aid.
In an Aug. 20 email to alumni announcing her resignation, Moody-Adams wrote that just days before, it was made clear to her that “structural transformations intended to fundamentally alter decision-making in and for the College cannot be stopped.”
These changes to the A&S administrative structure, she wrote, would “have the effect of diminishing and in some important instances eliminating the authority of the Dean of the College over crucial policy, fund-raising and budgetary matters” and would ultimately “compromise the College’s academic quality and financial health.”
It is unclear if the document obtained by Spectator summarizes a final version or a preliminary version of McKinsey’s report. Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences Nicholas Dirks declined to comment on the summary.
Moody-Adams, reached by phone Friday evening, also declined to comment on the summary.
McKinsey’s report was commissioned in part to help administrators eliminate a budget deficit that has plagued A&S for the last few years. The summary states that several of McKinsey’s proposals are meant to “generate resources for higher priority needs, not to ‘close’ a budget imbalance.”
McKinsey recommended that financial aid be decreased for families with “higher income levels” in order to “preserve aid levels for students from lower income families,” and that Columbia consider reintroducing loans. Administrators have been reconsidering Columbia’s no-loan policy since last semester.
Additionally, McKinsey advised Columbia to increase enrollment in master’s programs, which generate revenue because there is little financial aid for master’s students. Specifically, the summary says that administrators should “focus enrollment increases on six high-demand programs with marginal additions in smaller programs ... which will fund additional investments in required faculty and administration.”
The summary also recommends the introduction of two new master’s programs—economics and interdisciplinary individual study—to “match offerings with peer universities.” Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Carlos Alonso said in a recent interview that a proposal for an interdisciplinary master’s program was moving through the University Senate.
According to statistics from Columbia’s Office of Planning and Institutional Research, full-time enrollment in GSAS master’s programs increased from 720 students in 2008 to 941 students in 2011. Alonso emphasized that no pressure is being placed on departments to expand their master’s programs, saying that any growth has been “natural.”
Provost John Coatsworth—who declined to comment on the summary, given the report’s confidentiality—said that A&S as a whole “has been working hard over the last few years, and continues to work hard, to expand its master’s programs.”
These programs, he said, “have been able to attract excellent faculty and maintain high standards,” and have also “been able to generate some additional revenue for the Arts and Sciences, and therefore” for Columbia College.
The summary also discusses enrollment in the School of Continuing Education—which offers minimal financial aid—recommending that the University “identify incremental opportunities to increase offerings primarily through expansion of hybrid online programs.” According to OPIR statistics, full-time enrollments in Continuing Education increased from 821 students in 2008 to 1,110 students in 2011.
But some of McKinsey’s revenue-generating recommendations might no longer be necessary, as Coatsworth told faculty in a December email that the A&S budget deficit has been “corrected.”
“Budget projections for the next ten years show no deficits and growing surpluses after FY [fiscal year] 15,” Coatsworth wrote.
Coatsworth told Spectator on Thursday that the A&S budget deficit was fixed largely by funding provided by the University’s central administration.
Most of the McKinsey report summary focuses on options for restructuring the A&S central administration to make it more efficient and effective. A&S is made up of six schools—Columbia College, GSAS, Continuing Education, the School of General Studies, the School of the Arts, and the School of International and Public Affairs—as well as 29 departments and 32 institutes, centers, and programs.
The summary lays out three potential administrative structures, as first reported Thursday in The Eye, Spectator’s weekly magazine. All three structures involve the integration of decision-making for A&S schools into the central A&S administration, although none of these structures has been implemented.
The first structure, “Type 1,” hews closely to the existing structure but adds an “operating committee”—made up of Dirks and school deans, among others—which would be responsible for decision-making on issues including financial aid and admissions. It also adds a chief of staff for Dirks.
The second structure, “Type 2,” adds A&S-wide “functional heads”—including a chief information officer, a chief financial officer, and an enrollment manager—as well as divisional deans and a chief of staff. Columbia had already begun implementing a divisional dean structure before McKinsey recommended it, and there are currently divisional deans of humanities, sciences, and social sciences.
An advantage of the “Type 2” structure, the summary reads, is that it “enables strong coordination of support functions and related decision making across A&S.”
The “Type 3” structure, referred to as “Strong centralization within Central University,” involves the most sweeping changes. This structure would establish “direct Central University oversight and alignment on A&S matters” by integrating the A&S administration into the central University administration.
All three proposed structures limit the responsibilities of individual schools’ deans. The summary explains that deans would establish policies concerning the “care and feeding” of students, make decisions about the funding and supporting of student activities, and oversee global programs.
Rather than implement any of these three structures, though, administrators have chosen to move in a different direction.
As The Eye reported on Thursday, Dirks introduced a set of structural changes at a faculty meeting two weeks ago. One of those changes is the establishment of an A&S executive committee composed of himself, Alonso, and Columbia College Interim Dean James Valentini.
“The hope is that ... this new structure will raise the status and decision-making authority of the dean of the college in ways that will be productive both for the Arts and Sciences as a whole and for the college,” Coatsworth told The Eye.
Margaret Mattes contributed reporting.