Enrollment down for a third year

By Alexandra Kukulka

Since 2008, Columbia’s enrollment has been dropping, and this year is no exception. Enrollment has decreased for the third consecutive year sliding to a total of 11,625 undergraduate and graduate students.

While student numbers are declining, faculty numbers are increasing, but it is not evident why that is, according to Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs. However, minorities and transfer students have been enrolling in Columbia in record numbers.

The new enrollment is also affecting departments like Arts, Entertainment and Media Management, which has seen a 4.2 percent drop in enrolled students since

last year.

“First of all, it’s demographics,” Kelly said. “There is a 15 percent decrease in high school grads in Illinois going on to Illinois colleges. And it’s the economy. It’s the economic pressures that families are facing which makes choosing a college difficult.”

To assist families who have financial problems, Columbia has increased its scholarship support because there is less state aid for college students, Kelly said.

Last year, the scholarship budget was $17 million, according to Kelly. Approximately five years ago, this budget was only $3 million, he added.

“Approximately 40 percent of our freshman class received some financial support from Columbia,” Kelly said. “Several years ago, that was a far smaller number.”

The decreased enrollment is attributed to approximately 100 fewer freshmen coming to Columbia, and there was only a “modest” increase of 20 transfer students, Kelly said. There are also fewer students returning to Columbia to complete graduation, meaning fewer sophomores and juniors, he added.

Another factor in declining enrollmentis the common application, which allows students to apply to many different colleges without much effort, according to Elizabeth Herr, the college’s director of enrollment research.

“A lot of schools are seeing that their applicant pools are getting larger very quickly, but these students don’t necessarily enroll,” Herr said. “Part of that was happening to [Columbia’s] freshmen students.”

According to Herr, transfer students are an easy way for the college to increase enrollment because they know they want to go to Columbia, as opposed to freshmen who send out 15 different applications.

Another upside in student enrollment was minority groups, which have gone up by 2 percent since last year.

“[More than] 42 percent of our student body is minority,” Kelly said. “Five years ago, that was at 31 percent. In particular, we saw a record number of new Latino [students] coming to Columbia.”

Departments are also seeing a decrease in enrollment as fewer students want to attend Columbia. The Art and Design, AEMM and Film and Video departments have all seen a dropoff in the amount of students choosing these majors.

AEMM has seen the greatest decline in enrollment, from 12.4 percent in fall 2010 to 8.6 percent in fall 2011.

According to Philippe Ravanas, AEMM chair, these enrollment numbers don’t matter. What matters is the number of students enrolled in classes and their status, whether they are majors, minors or simply enrolled in courses, Ravanas said.

“Although our number of majors has flattened, the number of students enrolled in our classes has actually grown 9 percent,” Ravanas said.

In an effort to encourage students to enroll in AEMM majors and classes, the department has made classes that are beneficial to non-majors as well—like entrepreneurship—to attract these students to take classes listed under the major.

The AEMM department wants to be a resource for artists so that they can have self sustaining careers, Ravanas said.

“We have become much less concerned about majors and more concerned about being a contribution to the entire college,” Ravanas said.