Saving Columbia’s pennies

By SpencerRoush

When a person’s funds run low, the last thing he or she should think about is stopping by the mall to buy an unnecessary pair of shoes or designer sunglasses. Sure, the shoes or sunglasses may look nice and seem like a must-have at the time, but when bank accounts are in the red, it’s time for conservative spending and a lot more saving.

This frugal philosophy is not only pertinent to personal financing, but also holds true for larger operations, such as colleges and city budgets. And with fall 2010 enrollment numbers being down by 192 undergraduate students from fall 2009—nearly $4 million in tuition funds—Columbia is forced to also adopt this principle.

This is achievable by spending less on lavish gatherings—such as the new faculty and staff convocation added to the calendar this year at the Hilton’s Grand Ballroom, 720 S. Michigan Ave., with free-flowing alcohol—cutting courses with low student interest and enrollment and dropping needless new programs from the college’s repertoire.

Adding new programs and spending excessive amounts in start-up costs, only in hopes of gaining more attention from potential students, is throwing money at a roundabout way to solve our enrollment and retention problem. This is similar to the city of Chicago spending an unreasonable amount of funds to make the urban landscape attractive through expensive flowers, lights hung on the downtown trees and other seasonal decor.

These added details are alluring, but do tourists travel to Chicago to see our street-median planters? Probably not. Instead, money should be saved or spent on the upkeep of current programs, like the Chicago Transit Authority and education.

Columbia is in the same position, in that the college should save funds and disperse money to departments for daily operation costs and improving equipment. This meticulous department maintenance will probably impress potential students more than new, underdeveloped programs would.

Perhaps President Warrick L. Carter and other administrators have realized this importance because he listed four new principles in an e-mail to the Columbia community in an effort to keep students engaged and to establish a sustainable framework between programs and initiatives. These principles are in response to the college’s retention, enrollment and graduation rates.

“Note that these principles do not call on us to create new programs, nor do they say to do more,” Carter stated in the letter. “Rather, they look to galvanize our community, encourage a rich dialogue and integrate our efforts.”

The decision to create a framework to keep students engaged in courses and connect them to the Columbia community through existing programs, rather than creating new, expensive initiatives is a better option for the college and its constituents.

Having a more solid foundation for each of the college’s departments, specific courses and extra curricula will make the college more attractive to potential students and also keep those already enrolled content and excelling toward graduation.