The college should look to current students in seeking new ones

By Editor-in-Chief

As my senior year at Columbia gets underway, it’s hard to believe it has already been four years since I wrote my essay and submitted my application to enroll at the college.

Entirely uninterested in attending a state school, I had trouble, as high school came to a close, finding a college that seemed like it might be the right fit for me. What appealed to me most about Columbia—and what I still love today—was the college’s open, creative and non-traditional atmosphere. 

I knew that for me, enrolling at a state school would mean  spending four expensive years feeling like one of many anonymous students sitting in lecture halls and going unnoticed if I ever skipped class.

I chose Columbia because I wanted to attend a college that would offer smaller class sizes, opportunities for hands-on experiences and continuous creative stimulation while providing close working relationships with professors and industry mentors who would actually learn and remember my name. 

Nearing the end of my time at the college, I still feel I made the right choice in attending Columbia.

However, this year’s enrollment numbers reflect that not every student has felt the same way about their experiences at Columbia, and some prospective students may not have seen what I saw in the college’s resources years ago. 

As reported in the Front Page article, Columbia saw a decline in its total enrollment numbers this fall for the sixth consecutive year.

At 8,961 students, the college is now facing a 5 percent decrease in total enrollment in the past year—down from a total of 9,442 students last year. 

With college affordability and post-graduation job opportunities remaining a major concern nationwide, it is understandable that art schools across the country would be struggling to find ways to boost their enrollment numbers.

Columbia’s atmosphere and inner workings might not make sense to some prospective students or their parents, especially those who believe that a college education is only worthwhile if the graduate is going to be guaranteed a high-paying salary right out of school or for those who don’t understand the value of working in creative fields.

While the college’s continued decline in enrollment is disheartening, the campus community should not abandon hope for Columbia’s future recruits.

Columbia has long struggled to communicate to the outside world a clear message about its identity, partly because there have always been conflicting ideas about the college’s exact mission: Should the emphasis be solely on the arts or on business, too? Does a generous enrollment policy hinder or help the people it’s supposed to benefit?

To me, the lack of a specific branding for the college has its own appeal—not everyone wants to be labeled.

However, the college should take time this year to push its branding initiative further than it has in the past, asking current students to weigh in on why they love Columbia and why other prospective students might love it here, too.

Some suggest that the college’s past marketing attempts have been ineffective, but that could be due to former administrators choosing not to listen to those who pay to be here.

The college’s higher-ups should reconsider their branding efforts this year in an effort to boost next year’s enrollment numbers by appealing to prospective students through the eyes of its currently enrolled students.