Increased enrollment in Columbia College is just a drop in the bucket of money-saving initiatives, which also include a 10-percent decrease in the number of Ph.D. students and a faculty wage freeze. "A couple million here, a couple million there, pretty soon we're talking about real money," Vice President for Arts and Sciences Nicholas Dirks said, referring to the University's budget-constraining measures across the board. He described the recently announced increase of 50 students to the College's class of 2013 as "just a blip" with few drastic effects. For Core classes, he said, sections won't need to be added, since at the moment, many aren't filled to their caps. The overall strategy for cuts seems to be boosting the money making opportunities—such as potentially expanding the Post-Baccalaureate program and filling the dormitories for summer classes—while pulling back on more expensive initiatives. Dirks added that funds are limited to begin with. In late January, when University President Lee Bollinger announced portfolio losses of 15 percent over the six-month period ending Dec. 31, 2008, he called for an eight percent decrease in endowment payout across all budget units. Bollinger referred to "hard choices in the months ahead," and Provost Alan Brinkley said in an interview that he hoped to save money without causing "irrevocable damage." Until now, known measures have been a hiring review board, a delay in the implementing of CourseWork's successor Sakai, and the postponing of faculty hiring searches. On Monday evening, Student Affairs Dean and Vice President for Student Life Kevin Shollenberger e-mailed students about the enrollment increase and the availability of Harmony Hall in General Selection for College and Engineering students. Dirks revealed on Wednesday that the number of Ph.D. students, who are enrolled in the costly, fully-funded programs, would be cut down by 10 percent. Further, since American universities are reeling from the financial crisis, it would be tougher for Ph.D. students to find jobs. The reduction of graduate students will free up the space in Harmony Hall, currently occupied by law and statistics students. Dirks estimated that the enrollment increase will bring in about $1 million after costs, including Harmony renovations, are adjusted. He stressed that the admissions of the additional students will be need-blind, adding that there is no news yet on a tuition increase. In order to support increasing aid needs, Barnard has raised tuition for next year by three percent. Since Shollenberger sent his message, several points have been clarified. The enrollment increase will also require the creation of two Resident Advisor positions and one Graduate Assistant position in Harmony Hall. Twenty-five sophomore Furnald beds will be turned over to first-years. The number of additional transfers is still unknown. Although Shollenberger mentioned in his e-mail that one goal of the growth is to "address our budgetary concerns," planning for increases has been in the works for years, Dirks said. The Task Force on Undergraduate Education has been modeling potential increases of 10, 15, and 20 percent. According to Dirks, Bollinger has wanted the College, historically known as a small Ivy, to be on a trajectory towards gradual increases. One plan saw a larger increase over five years, pending the construction of a new dormitory. Dirks said the University found a site, but was unable to raise the gifts for the dormitory. "It's a long-term possibility is all I would say at this point," he said. "Given the historical size of the College it would be within line in trying to get there within 15 years." So why 50, why now? "We just had to project where and how we would bring in a certain number of students that would impact on the academic quality," Dirks said. The planning effort was recalibrated as the economic downturn took hold. After consulting several bodies, including the Faculty Budget Group and department chairs, it was agreed that an increase between 25 -75 students would be in order for next fall. "I thought we could push up the numbers a little bit and it would be less agonizing to the admissions office, and it would bring in more smart undergraduates," Dirks said. As to the question of making any policy decisions for purely financial reasons, "admissions has a seal around it," Dirks said. "They don't let me in there. Anybody with dollar signs in their eyes is kept out." Joy Resmovits can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Columbia Spectator Staff