800 more students jumped ship; who can blame them?

By Zoë Eitel, Editor-In-Chief

To no one’s surprise, Columbia’s enrollment numbers dropped again, and it’s getting really hard to make such a repetitive story both editorially and visually unique and interesting.

Beyond the hardship The Chronicle faces in keeping its readers interested in the same old same old every semester, Columbia is losing students at a rate that doesn’t seem to be slowing. Even the administration predicted a loss of this size, so at least they weren’t completely blindsided, as reported on the Front Page.

In the seven semesters I’ve been a student here, the college’s enrollment has dropped by 2,130—nearly a third of its current student body. In such a sprawling city campus without a central location for students—at least until the all-important student center is built—it’s hard to tell these students are gone. But this absence of students shows most in the changes to the school—cuts made under the guise of bettering students’ experiences.

There are benefits to having a smaller student body. Smaller classes let professors get to know their students. Curriculum can be tailored to the specific students who are here rather than 50,000 students with various interests. There is less crowding of resources, so each student can utilize the college extras they pay large fees for.

Except, none of those things are true at Columbia anymore.

Though official class sizes are typically limited to 15–25 students, so students can grow connections and receive personalized attention, many are actually over capacity. Out of all of Columbia’s courses, exactly 100 are over capacity by anywhere from one to seven students, according to the fall 2017 course catalog. That’s more than 150 students total who are being stuffed into classrooms they aren’t technically supposed to fit in.

Exciting classes and programs that oftentimes are what draw students to Columbia in the first place are being reworked, causing this private liberal arts college to resemble a large state school more and more with each change. 

The on-campus resources—some provided by the required fees paid with semester tuition—are frankly a joke. There are no openings in the Counseling Services for months, with the only available appointments for emergency counseling. The staff in the Health Center is likely to prescribe bed rest and DayQuil for a sinus infection. Student organizations’ budgets are being slashed.

If Columbia is going to embrace being a smaller school, it has to offer the qualities of one. If it is going to be charging more than $25,000 a year, then something’s got to give.

Part of the reason all these students are leaving each and every semester is that they don’t think they are getting 25 grand’s worth of education at Columbia, and they’re not completely wrong.

The thing that drew me to Columbia is also the only thing keeping me here: The Chronicle. And even we are holding on by the skin of our teeth to everything that keeps us running, winning awards and propelling students into their industry.

At this point, it doesn’t matter how many students drop out because they got job offers, or how many students are super happy with their degrees, or how many graduates have fond memories from their education 15 years ago. What matters is that we don’t have the student body to keep running without making these major changes. But these changes are taking us further away from the school some of us thought we were applying to.

But hey, maybe the nearly $700,000 rebranding campaign from fall 2016 will help bring students here. Or maybe the upcoming $50 million student center will be enough to keep students from jumping ship. If not, there’s always the option to keep merging departments and programs until there’s just a singular big one.