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Kim pledges to meet more regularly with students as financial crisis deepens

Abra Richardson
Columbia President Kwang-Wu Kim addresses the Student Government Association in their weekly meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, at the Student Center. Kim’s presence was not announced on social media when SGA posted about the meeting.

President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim said he wants to meet with students in small gatherings more regularly to discuss the college’s worsening financial crisis and the steps being taken to resolve it.

Kim met with the Student Government Association at its weekly meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 13, to address the college’s $38 million deficit and a 5% tuition increase for next academic year.

“It’s no secret that the college is struggling right now financially,” Kim told about two dozen SGA senators.

He also announced at the meeting that the Student Center would be named for a donor who gave a half million dollars to the college.

Kim did not disclose the name of the donor and left immediately from the meeting. Lambrini Lukidis, associate vice president of Strategic Communications and External Relations, said a formal announcement was forthcoming. 

Last Friday, the college said it will begin the formal process to assess whether it needs to close academic programs and lay off full-time faculty. Kim also said last week that there will be $19 million in cuts, most of them within the administration.

Student senators told Kim they are worried about the impact of the tuition increase on retention, the need for more scholarships, which majors might be impacted and student worker jobs.

I want to be in an open conversation with people at this institution so they know what’s going on,” Kim said. “You have to really assess when you’re talking to someone, ‘Is this person telling you the truth?’”

Kim plans on delivering a draft report of his recommendations for restructuring to the Faculty Senate by Feb. 28. The report will be a public document so everyone will be able to view the plans the college is seeking in terms of “action steps” to better help the college’s health, he said. 

Departments are meeting this week to make their own recommendations to Provost Marcella David who has directed the college’s three schools to plan for an overall budget reduction of $3.8 million, or 6.8%.

Every year, Kim attends one of SGA’s weekly senator meetings before any announcement of tuition increases. Tuition already had gone up 5% this academic year and 10% the year before. By Fall 2024, students will have seen a 20% tuition increase in three years. The college did not raise tuition during the height of the pandemic. 

This year, SGA President Tyler Harding requested that Kim come after the tuition increase was announced so that senators could prepare questions about how this may affect their departments and what they can do to support students.

Two members of the president’s cabinet were in attendance with Kim, Chief of Staff Laurent Pernot and Vice President of Student Affairs Sharon Wilson-Taylor.

Kim sought to reassure students about the future of the college in spite of the current fiscal situation. 

He said the college is most concerned about retention. He has said enrollment could be down by 1,000 students in the fall. 

“All of you who are here, you’re the ones who are here because of the implied promises that were made to you by this institution,” Kim said. “You’re the ones we owe something to in terms of making sure that we deliver.”

Camryn Mather, a junior arts management major and senator for the Business and Entrepreneurship Department, said discussions with Kim are important.

“I think that meetings like this are just like the start of what we need at this institution, which is an institution that is for the students that thinks of the students first,” Mather said.

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About the Contributors
Allison Shelton
Allison Shelton, Reporter
ashelton@columbiachronicle.com   Allison Shelton is a sophomore journalism major, with a minor in adverting and fashion communications.  She primarily reports on Columbia's Student Government Association but has also written about sustainability, campus events and the college's unions. Shelton joined the Chronicle in August 2023.   Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
Abra Richardson
Abra Richardson, Senior Photojournalist
arichardson@columbiachronicle.com   Abra Richardson is a senior photojournalism major and has covered Chicago music festivals, fashion and metro protests. She joined the Chronicle in August 2021.   Hometown: Palatine, Illinois