College needs to realign priorities

By The Columbia Chronicle

Columbia takes great pride in promoting student diversity, but before the college spends more money on helping to diversify the student body, the school needs to reevaluate its priorities.

International recruitment is an important part of growing and diversifying Columbia’s student body. However, the school’s administration should focus on existing problems within the college before putting an emphasis on recruiting in foreign countries.

In recent years, Columbia has amplified its focus on international student recruitment. The increased attention comes as the college works to meet goals outlined in its 2010 Strategic Plan. According to a 2010 Strategic Plan progress report prepared by the Office of Institutional Planning and Research, Columbia needs to increase international student enrollment by 2.5 percent annually in order to meet its benchmarks by 2010.

The college has seen an exceptionally modest increase in international student enrollment. The money poured into the recruitment effort does not justify the current outcome.

According to Columbia’s annual fall enrollment report, 29 new international students are enrolled this semester, a two-student increase from the 27 enrolled last year. This translates to an increase of only .07 percent—a far cry from Columbia’s goal of a 2.5 percent annual increase.

Despite the lagging international student enrollment rates, Columbia continues to spend money on international recruitment efforts. The college recently paid to send a recruiter to the Bahamas and India. This month, for the second consecutive year, the college will pay to send a recruiter to Asia.

We recognize that diversity within the student population is important. We acknowledge the value of international students. But the needs of existing students must be met before additional money is allocated for international recruiting.

Some of the issues affecting the existing student body are poor student health insurance, Columbia’s current enrollment policy and our inability to get straight answers about where our tuition money is being spent.

Almost every college or university has some form of international recruiting, and we acknowledge that Columbia cannot simply discontinue its own efforts. However, instead of emphasizing and potentially growing this effort, the college needs to focus on its existing students. A 2.5 percent annual increase of international students is not unrealistic for the future, but for the time being, helping the 13,000 existing students make it all the way to graduation should be the college’s first priority.