Scholarship funds expand as college’s belt tightens

By Brett Marlow

A week before classes begin and students return for the spring semester, Columbia president Warrick L. Carter sent out a memo on Jan. 14 outlining initiatives he and the board of trustees approved in hopes of easing some of the financial worries and woes of students in such an uneasy economic time, like offering more scholarship money and cutting college costs.

Beginning in fall 2009, the college will amp up its scholarship dollars awarded to new and continuing students by increasing its scholarship funds by 46 percent. Unrestricted scholarship money this year was more than $7.6 million, and by next year will exceed $11 million, said Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs.

The scholarships will be geared more to students who demonstrate financial need. The college is also working to increase alumni giving. As a way to keep costs low for students, the college will increase tuition 3 percent, or by about $540, in the fall, as opposed to 4.95 percent—a figure that was discussed last year. Tuition will now cost $18,490.

“It became very clear that we ought to try and help our students enter and complete their education,” said Allen Turner, chairman of the board of trustees. “The obvious solution was to make more money available. We couldn’t do it decreasing tuition, but we could do it by raising funds and allocating them, and allocating some of our existing funds to student scholarships.”

A scholarship program that’s already in place but is also increasing by about 50 percent is Columbia’s Third-Party Scholarship program. With the program, the college will match scholarships obtained from outside the college up to $1,000.

The increase in institutional support for these scholarships will come from the college’s budget.

“It’s because the college is tightening, pretty much locking down everything else to allow it to dramatically increase scholarship funding,” Kelly said.

Kelly said 90 percent of the new scholarship funds will be for need-based scholarships, while 10 percent will be merit-based.

Also this year, the Office of Institutional Advancement is working toward gaining more donors to further fund scholarships for new and returning students.

According to the memo, as part of Scholarship Columbia, the college will match alumni gifts 2-to-1 up to $25,000 and will also match alumni gifts above $25,000 on a 1-to-1 basis, all based on new and increased giving. The program is beginning with a $100,000 grant from an anonymous donor.

“This program is designed to encourage alumni and friends of the college to provide us with readily distributed scholarships for students during these economic times, as opposed to endowing the money,” said Eric Winston, vice president of Institutional Advancement.

Winston said there aren’t any plans to expand his staff in an effort to bring in donors, but will continue to work with his existing staff.

According to the memo, the college has also frozen senior administrator salaries at and above the vice presidential level. Travel and entertainment expenses have been cut, and campus renovation projects will only focus on “building safety and infrastructure and the learning environment.”

Turner said the Media Production Center would not be affected by these cutbacks as the funding for the building has already been secured from specific funding and giving.

While Columbia may still be building new spaces, Turner said he hopes they’re also building lives.

In a further effort, in a press release from Jan. 23, Columbia announced it held its annual faculty and staff holiday party on campus this year to cut costs. The measure ended up saving the college $25,000, according to the press release. The money will be used for scholarship funds for currently enrolled students.

“I wish we could cut tuition and give everyone scholarships, and do lots of things, but we are conscious of it, and we’re trying to raise money for scholarships and we’re doing it,” Turner said.

For more information regarding scholarships, students are encouraged to contact the Office of Enrollment Management Services.