Don’t cut curriculum when budget is tight

By Editorial Board

As part of the Columbia 2016 plan aimed at trimming budget costs while increasing enrollment in Columbia, President Warrick L. Carter announced plans to cut major concentrations with fewer than seven or eight students enrolled. While Carter said the concentrations have yet to be determined, the move could put approximately 30 concentrations in jeopardy.

Annual Fact Books put out by Columbia’s Research, Evaluation and Planning office showed 27 concentrations with fewer than nine students in 2008, and 30 concentrations in 2009. Interestingly, these concentrations have an average number of 1.13 students because 20 of the 30 concentrations in question have zero students enrolled.

In that case, how could an empty concentration use the college’s resources? Considering the controversial class cuts based on low enrollment in recent semesters, it is impossible to think any of the classes required for these concentrations are being continued, and thus draining the budget simply because one or two students need to take the course.

Cutting classes to save cost doesn’t seem to add up, though.  The maximum an adjunct faculty member can be paid per class is $4,500. It is hard to understand why the tuition dollars of eight students enrolled in a course would not be enough to cover

that cost.

Additionally, these cuts would increase Columbia’s average class size. The enrollment cap on most classes is 25 students, but Columbia’s class size averages at 17.  If smaller concentrations—and subsequently smaller classes—are cut, this impressive number cannot be preserved.

Specific concentrations within major departments are part of what makes Columbia stand out. Concentrations give students a more detailed field of study and help build a niche expertise, which is becoming increasingly important in media arts fields. Columbia should consider promoting the benefits of its unique programs instead of making cuts, which could ultimately boost programs’ enrollment.

The decision to cut small major concentrations is disconcerting. Considering the numbers, it seems cutting concentrations is a roundabout way of cutting class options.  Students are here to take advantage of the diverse curriculum Columbia offers—cutting any part of that curriculum should be a desperate last resort.