Carter faces, explains challenges in State of the College address

By Contributing Writer

By Vanessa Morton, Contributing Writer

Columbia administration, faculty, staff and students recently gathered to hear from President Warrick L. Carter at the annual State of the College Address. The event gave the administration and student body a chance to discuss what is going on within different aspects of the college community.

Hosted by the Student Government Association, the address was held at the Loft, in the 916 S. Wabash Ave. Building, on March 30. Carter discussed many of Columbia’s ongoing issues, such as the current financial state of the college and its future plans.

Carter focused on the recent tuition increase, scholarships and the problems faced with the Monetary Assistance Program grants, which give financial assistance to qualified Illinois students.

“As hard as the increases might be, we still are very concerned about holding the prices down and keeping us as affordable as we possibly can and to put more money on the table for scholarships,” he said.

Carter also announced the college’s new strategic approach, called Focus 2016, that comes from the previous Columbia 2010 plan. The strategic initiative identified the college’s vast enrollment growth, student learning and finances, which Carter said made Columbia successful through 2010.

With the institution under economic strain, Focus 2016 will concentrate on student learning, finances and keeping enrollment steady.

“It will be a collegewide approach,” Carter said. “We will diligently work to make sure we give you the best education experience we possibly can.”

However, Columbia continues to make adjustments affecting its financial status. The biggest issue Carter mentioned was the high cost of college tuition and the decision made to increase it.

Although Columbia students face with a 4.98 percent tuition increase, he stated it’s the lowest increase among Illinois schools. Higher institutions in the state face a 7 percent tuition increase on average.

According to Carter, Columbia tuition has increased 22 percent during the last four years, while state institutions have increased 54 percent and other private institutions have gone up approximately 29 percent.

John Trierweiler, president of the SGA, said he agrees with Carter. Although the tuition hike is a burden placed on Columbia’s students, Trierweiler said it’s important to understand the college has imposed one of the lowest tuition increases in the state.

“The increase in tuition is one of the most criticized things the administration has to deal with,” Trierweiler said. “While it isn’t something we want or like to see, it’s unfortunately—in these times—something that has to happen.”

However, Casey Gold, a representative of the Student Affairs Committee and arts, entertainment and media management major, felt ambivalent.

Gold said Carter expressed a lot of great things that were “big picture ideas for forward thinking.”

However, he was hoping to hear more details on the specifics of the current issues around campus.

“In what was said at this speech, there seemed to be a disconnect of, ‘Oh, yes, these are our grand ideas, these are fantastic,’” Gold said. “But in reality, what percentage of students are actually getting scholarships, coming to the campus and like green initiatives? That was a big part of his

whole speech.”

In addition to a tuition increase, another financial problem stems from the MAP grants. While Carter explained the grants are vital to the college, there were threats made to the program last year by legislators.

Although the program is currently safe—partly due to student protest—he explained there is concern about money still due from the state. According to Carter, Illinois owes the college $10 million for MAP funding.

“These are challenging times, so we’re learning to deal with them,” Carter said. “We’ve made adjustments as a leadership group to make sure things will still run smoothly, just in case the state reneges on funds they owe us. But we will still be very aggressive with them, making sure we get the money that is ours.”

Despite the school’s financial concerns,

Carter made sure to mention growth rise in Columbia’s scholarship funding.

According to him, Columbia was able to increase the scholarship base because it received an additional $4 million last year from the school’s Board of Trustees.

“The board agreed to increase the scholarship money by $4 million [throughout] a four-year period of time,” Carter said. “So we will go from $4 million in scholarships in ’09 to about $30 million in scholarships four years down the road.”

He said with the additional money for the upcoming fall semester, Columbia will add another $4 million to student scholarships. He said the administration and staff are always looking for new approaches to find more student scholarships.

Addressing student affordability, student-at-large representative and television major Kendall Klitzke said it would be great to come up with some kind of automatic scholarship program.

“It would be great if they created these types of opportunity scholarships as well as merit-based scholarships,” Klitzke said. “If you are on the dean’s list with a high [grade point average], you should receive automatic money for something like that.”

Trierweiler said despite Columbia’s rough straits times, he’s very hopeful for the future.

“Colleges have tough times, but just like any other college, we’re not immune to the tough economic times that have happened in higher education,” Trierweiler said. “I believe the college has done a great job with still maintaining [its goal] of taking care of the students.”