Big Losses, small gains

By BenitaZepeda

On Sept. 25, President Warrick L. Carter announced the budget for Columbia’s 2010 fiscal year, which began on Sept. 1 and will end on Aug. 31, 2010.  The announcement displays how the college has been affected financially during the current economic climate.

The 2010 budget’s key goals focus on three main areas.  The first is investing $1.4 million for the operation of the Media Production Center, which was approved in fiscal year 2009 and is expected to open in February. The second is to increase student scholarships by 47 percent and the third is to allow for improvements in academic and administrative affairs.

The budget for this fiscal year is approximately $227.1 million, which is a 3.1 percent increase. The college initially projected the budget based on hopes of maintaining a flat enrollment, which means no significant fluctuation in student enrollment from the previous academic year.

However, the college has seen a decrease in enrollment numbers from the past academic year. This factor caused a budget shortfall of $6 million for the tuition-driven operating model.

The college also saw a loss of $37 million in endowment funds, which are gifts that provide an income for an institution. Carter’s announcement noted, however, that because Columbia is not that dependent on endowment funds, the college did not have to borrow money to maintain operations.

Efforts are being made to offset the loss in funds that the college projected during the summer. In preparation for this fiscal year, Carter has limited hiring, suspended several capital renovation projects and curtailed travel. This helped offset investment losses in the endowment portfolio.

Alicia Berg, vice president of Campus Environment, said that last fiscal year the school postponed or eliminated capital projects, which included the possible relocation of the bookstore.

“This fiscal year we had to cut about $1 million from the capital budget,” Berg said.  “We didn’t have to really cancel any projects, but we looked at rethinking the scope of projects.”

The current economic climate is what has caused the decrease in the operating budget.  As families struggle to fund higher education, many parents and students are seeking alternative methods to pay for their education, such as increasing school loans.

If MAP funds are not restored in October, the college is estimating a $5.5 million loss in the money students were to receive from the program.

Because the amount of continuing students was the only enrollment number to increase by 1.5 percent this fall semester, the college is preparing for the possibility of a loss in MAP funds and is working on ways to maintain that number.

“We’re going to do everything we can to alleviate the pressure on students whose MAP funds disappear,” said Provost and Senior Vice President Steve Kapelke. “The amount of scholarship funding that we as a college offer is something that we need to take a look at, and we are looking at that right now.”

By the time the announcement is made on whether the state will continue the MAP grant, they will have a plan to address it, Kapelke said. “Whether we will be able to meet the needs of every student currently getting MAP money is open to question, and I don’t know if I could promise that.”

Because endowment funding is down, the Office of Institutional Advancement is encouraging people to give scholarship endowments through their Scholarship Columbia program, said Eric Winston, vice president of Institutional Advancement.

Scholarship Columbia is an initiative to help more students fund their education. Since last fall, the number of students receiving scholarships has doubled from 300 recipients to approximately 600.

“It becomes a pool of money that can hopefully be given to students,” Winston said. “If the MAP rant is not restored, then these dollars would be a godsend to any student that would be able to get them.”

Carter stated, “Despite the economic pressures, I am confident that we will continue to manage our resources strategically and in alignment with our institutional priorities. Our strong vision, coupled with our wonderful community, adds to our ability to handle

market fluctuations.”