Following is the text of 'Enhancing the Undergraduate Experience at Columbia.'
The enhancements that are proposed for Columbia College will also benefit undergraduate students in the School of General Studies and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The focus of this report, however, is on the College.
Columbia College, with 3,500 students, is the smallest undergraduate student body in the Ivy League. With approximately 10 applicants for every available space, and matriculants who typically have graduated in the top 10% of their high school class, it is also one of the most competitive undergraduate programs in the League, and in the nation. Students enrolled in the College receive their instruction principally from the faculty members of Columbia's twenty-eight arts and sciences departments, who are among the world's foremost researchers and scholars in the humanities, physical sciences, social sciences, and arts. Thus, the intellectual vitality and the financial health of Columbia's undergraduate curriculum, and the quality of the faculty and graduate student instructors in the departments, are inextricably linked: undergraduates are taught in small classes by academic departments of the first rank. The financial support for those departments--and thus their size and quality--depends in large part on the revenues generated by students who are enrolled in the five schools that are part of the Arts and Sciences.
Over the past decade, the College has made enormous gains in student quality, academic curriculum, physical environment, diversity, and student services. Immediately after the College first admitted women in 1983, applications for admission increased by 55%. Over the subsequent twelve years applications have more than doubled. During the same period, the enrollment of the College rose much more slowly, and thus its selectivity (the percentage of applicants admitted) improved from 44% to 24%. Within the Ivy League, only Harvard and Princeton are significantly more selective than Columbia College. Much of this gain can be attributed to the concerted efforts made in recent years to expand and improve the admissions office, including the increased professionalization of its staff and giving it the tools to identify and recruit very talented students who are likely to be attracted to New York and to Columbia.
During this period, the College's unique Core Curriculum--including its structure of small class sizes--has been maintained, and other aspects of the undergraduate experience have been strengthened. New majors have been added in the arts, African-American studies, women's studies, and a number of other interdisciplinary subjects.
At the same time that selectivity and quality have improved, the College's student body is more diverse than it was prior to the early 1980s. Women now account for 49% of total enrollment. The proportion of students coming from outside the northeast region has increased by more than 50%. The proportion of students who are African-American or Hispanic now stands at 18%--the highest in the Ivy League--a 20% increase over 1983 levels. These gains reflect and strengthen one of the characteristics that has traditionally distinguished Columbia University--its commitment to egalitarian participation and an active role in promoting social and economic mobility, as well as its commitment to academic and scholarly excellence.
The University has taken significant steps to upgrade the facilities in which undergraduate students live and study, and to improve the administrative support services they receive. During the 1980s, the College achieved the important goal of becoming a truly residential institution--more than 90% of College students now reside in institutional housing, the remainder choosing to live in near-by fraternity houses or to commute from home. Both to meet this goal, and to upgrade the general quality of student housing, a major program of construction and renovation was carried out in the 1980s: a number of facilities formerly devoted to graduate housing were converted to use for undergraduates (such as McBain, Woodbridge, and 47 Claremont); major restorations were undertaken in Hartley-Wallach, John Jay, and East Campus; and Schapiro Hall was constructed. More recently, the House System was established, and a major renovation of Furnald Hall has begun and is scheduled for completion by Fall, 1996.
Over the past four years, the number of full-time equivalent students (College and General Studies) has declined slightly. These data are shown in Table 1, which summarizes key trends in enrollments, applications, student selectivity, and diversity:
Columbia has also invested heavily in new information technology to support administrative processes and improve communications on campus. The Student Information System (SIS) completed its five year, phased installation in 1995. SIS integrated what had been a complex--and confusing--maze of stand-alone registration, billing, record-keeping, and financial systems. The system uses a single, comprehensive database of student information to fulfill a number of key service functions more quickly and accurately than the previous set of systems. In addition, Columbia has been a leader in making the full range of personal and educational computing technology available to its undergraduate students. Recently, for example, all of the residence halls were wired so that each room now has access to the campus network, including a host of local computing resources and access to the Internet. A program to equip dozens of campus classrooms with multi-media technologies is well underway, and electronic teaching laboratories are being added in Havemeyer and Fairchild.
Indisputably, Columbia College is already one of the finest undergraduate institutions in the nation. Now more than two centuries old, it represents Columbia University's institutional roots and is a cornerstone of the University's educational mission. While the College's achievements have been great--and while improvements such as those described briefly above continue to be made--unfulfilled aspirations remain. These are rooted in the conviction that Columbia College can become the nation's finest undergraduate institution located in a great, urban-based research university.
A number of important initiatives are already underway to enhance the undergraduate experience at Columbia, the funding for which is already being incorporated into the university's budget plans. These include:
However, to make the quality and reputation of the College rank among the top three to five programs in the nation requires a major leap forward. Such a leap will likely necessitate a departure from the status quo with regard to size, alumni support, and capital investment commitments by the University. Our aspirations--which are unlikely to be fully realized with currently available financial resources--include the following:
Much of the remainder of this document focuses on the model that is currently being used to estimate the economic benefits to the College and to the arts and sciences of increasing undergraduate enrollment by as much as 15%. The additional financial resources that would flow from such an increase would be one component of a plan to position the College and the arts and sciences for the coming decade--a decade which holds the promise of building significantly on the fundamental strengths of Columbia, and in the gains that have been made since the early 1980s in promoting quality, diversity, and academic excellence.
The financial model and associated pro formas described in this report are based on an assumed 15% increase in enrollment, phased in over a period of years. However, it is not certain that it will ultimately be decided to increase the size of the College by that amount. While the enrollment planning and resulting financial projections are based on a 15% rise in students at steady-state, there are a number of factors that could affect the timing of the increase or the ultimate steady-state increase. Decisions regarding the precise level and timing of any increase will be made in a planned, deliberate way in order to provide maximum flexibility and to minimize the potential for downside risks with regard to finances and academic quality.
It should be stated unequivocally that the size of the College will not be increased unless the following principles can be adhered to:
The size and quality of the student applicant pool in future years is clearly one of the critical planning parameters in the model. Given recent trends, plans for more aggressive and targeted recruitment efforts, and the expected growth in the college-age population over the next decade, it is not unreasonable to expect applications to the College to increase by 7% each year. With such an increase--and even with a gradual increase in admitted students such that the total enrollment rises by 15%, the admit rate will still improve as indicated in Figure 1.
Consistent with the above, any enlargement of the College must be carried out in a phased manner. Figure 2 presents a hypothetical phasing approach, which adds 15% to the total enrollment over a period of six years (the financial results shown in Figure 5 are based on this pattern). Depending on the adequacy of the applicant pool, readiness of new housing facilities, and other factors, the increase could be accelerated or decelerated by adjusting the number of new students or transfer students admitted each year.
A financial analysis of incremental revenues and costs associated with added student enrollments would be simple if it followed a linear path--that is, if every additional student brought a certain amount of new tuition revenue as well as a certain level of marginal costs. In fact, the new costs brought by added students follow a "step" function: a very small number of added students brings little or no new costs, but when the growth reaches certain critical points, significant new commitments such as housing and instructional resources must be made in order to meet demand.
The analysis is also complicated by the fact that judgments must be made regarding the type or mix of resources that are to be added in order to meet demand. Obviously, the financial results could be shown to have the most favorable possible outcome by assuming the least costly option for providing--for example--student housing. But the least costly option may not be consistent with the College's programmatic or service needs, and may even be at odds with some of the very improvements that are being sought in the first place. In addition, as discussed below, the potential expansion is intentionally a conditional one, in which the precise level of added students and the timing of their enrollment are modulated to ensure student quality, financial stability, and other factors such as the availability of planned new housing.
The following summary of the financial model attempts to be as comprehensive and transparent as possible with regard to both its underlying assumptions and its results. As noted above, the purpose of the model is to assess the financial impact of a significant enrollment increase. Much of the data discussed below are based on an eventual steady-state enrollment rise of 15%, from the current 3,500 student body to roughly 4,000. The question that the analysis attempts to answer is straightforward: with a 15% increase in College enrollments, how much revenue would be generated, how much of the added revenue would need to be deployed simply to accommodate the additional students (financial aid, instruction, housing, student services, administrative services), and how much would be available to help accomplish the enhancement goals outlined briefly in section II?
Throughout this section, key assumptions (those that drive the financial results) are indicated by bold type. Appendix A contains a pro forma projection of incremental revenues and expenses for each of the next twelve fiscal years. All dollar figures cited in the remainder of this text are stated in 1995 dollars, using a 4% inflation assumption. 1
A steady-state enrollment increase of 15%--which for reasons described later must necessarily be gradually phased in over a period of at least five years--would add a total of 530 students to the College, or approximately 135 additional students per year for several years. Future year tuition rates are estimated assuming that the College's current tuition grows by 6% annually. By year six, for example, incremental tuition rate would be $14.8 million--530 additional students multiplied by the projected tuition rate of $27,987 (or $11.7 million in 1995 dollars). Although it is likely that the greater emphasis given to the College will increase the rate and amount of alumni support, no assumptions for additional revenue from that source are included in the model.
Typically, student financial aid expenses in the College are equal to approximately 28% of the tuition revenue that its students generate. Except for Yale, this is the highest "discount rate" among Ivy League institutions, and reflects both the University's financial aid policy and the economic profile of its students. Over the past six years, the median family income of Columbia's first-year students who received financial aid was the lowest in the Ivy League (approximately $45,000; all other Ivy League institutions exceeded $50,000 except for Penn). 2 Partly as a result of their relatively low income, families of Columbia students who need financial aid were able to cover only 25% of the total term bill in 1994-95--compared to 45% at Harvard, 34% at Princeton, and 28% at Yale. Given this, it is not surprising that the average institutional grant provided by Columbia to students on aid is relatively high: over the past three years, within the Ivy League only Yale's average grant was (slightly) higher than Columbia's. For example, Brown's average grant was $1,380 lower than Columbia's, Cornell's was $1,942 lower, and Princeton's was $1,328 lower.
In developing this financial model, it was assumed that Columbia's long-standing commitment to a need-blind/full-need financial aid policy would remain unchanged, and that the profile of future entering classes would be similar to those of the recent past. Thus, the model incorporates financial aid expenditures equal to 28% of the projected incremental tuition generated from added enrollments--consistent with recent experience. At the full 15% enrollment increase, then, 28% of the $11.7 million in gross tuition revenue must be set aside for financial aid.
The University is fortunate in that it will have sufficient capacity to accommodate an additional 230 students without the need to build a new residence hall. The availability of Watt Hall (which was converted to undergraduate use in order to replace Furnald while it was being renovated), together with the planned renovation of 175 beds in Institutional Real Estate (IRE) buildings, will provide an adequate amount of housing at very low cost. For planning purposes, it was assumed that the IRE spaces would be renovated at a cost of $20,000 per bed. 3 The adequacy of housing assumes that 47 Claremont and Watt Hall continue to function as buildings for undergraduates, that River Hall continues until at least the point at which a new residence hall is constructed, and that the 175 IRE beds be filled by East Campus graduate students, thus freeing those beds for undergraduate use.
If and when the enrollment increase exceeds approximately 230 students, a new residence hall will be required to meet demand. 4 Substantial work is already underway to identify potential sites, gain legal and community approval, develop initial designs, and estimate construction and "soft" costs. For planning purposes, it is assumed that the most likely potential site (113 Street and Broadway) will add 420 new beds at a total cost of $30 million. It is assumed that of the total cost, approximately one-third will be funded with gifts, and $2.6 million with a portion of the room rate that is paid by the additional students. The balance of approximately $17 million will be financed with borrowed funds, with repayment taking place over a twenty-five year period at an interest rate of 9%. 5
Annual debt service (principal and interest) for borrowed funds--to finance the renovation of 175 IRE beds and the construction of a new residence hall--will total $2.1 million annually.
Instructional and Academic Support Costs
One of the basic assumptions used in creating this plan was the maintenance of the Core Curriculum as it currently stands in terms of both content and structure: the small class size restrictions on the core will be maintained. A committee chaired by Professor Robert Jervis, at that time the Arts and Sciences' Acting Associate Vice President for Planning, created a model which estimates the additional instructional costs of expanding the enrollment of Columbia College. 6 Courses were put into one of two groups: limited enrollment courses such as the Core, languages, laboratories, and seminars; and "open" enrollment courses.
In modeling the impact on limited enrollment classes, the committee first considered the enrollment limits and the enrollment histories of the courses using both the 1992-93 and 1993-94 academic years as a baseline in order to estimate how many additional students could be accommodated. In the Core, enrollment ranged between 88% and 104% of capacity. The committee concluded that greater enrollment efficiency (albeit never 100%) could be achieved as follows: Logic & Rhetoric, 98%; Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization, 92.5%; and Art Humanities and Music Humanities, 95%. These efficiency rates would require ten additional sections of Logic and Rhetoric, seven additional Literature Humanities sections, ten additional Contemporary Civilization sections, five additional Art Humanities sections, and ten additional Music Humanities sections.
For introductory and intermediate language instruction the committee found the current class offerings to be well below their current enrollment limits to the point that an enrollment increase of 15% could be accommodated with a very modest (one section) increase in offerings. This, as is true of many parts of the model, would be subject to adjustment as student tastes change, enrollment patterns shift, and requirements for majors are augmented. 7 Excess demand caused by shifting student tastes will be no more and no less of a problem than before, but new revenues will provide some opportunities to address it.
A similar situation was found when the committee explored the science laboratories, another category of limited enrollment courses. Using the departmental course limits the committee found that only two or so additional chemistry lab sections might be needed to accommodate a 15% increase in the size of the College. In order to fully understand this small increase it must be recognized that College students only fill a portion of the seats in the sciences courses at Columbia. Barnard, Engineering and General Studies students fill a large portion of these seats and the committee took this into consideration during its modeling.
The final category of limited enrollment classes is seminars which, in many departments, are restricted to majors in their senior year. Seminars are a somewhat more difficult curricular component to model because they vary from year to year based on the tastes and availability of both faculty and students. The committee found that by increasing the breadth and enrollment of seminars perhaps only four or so additional offerings would be needed to accommodate the proposed 15% enrollment increase.
In open enrollment classes the committee found the chief constraints to be classrooms of the appropriate size and the availability of teaching assistants and readers. The classroom situation was deemed to require further study, but some work done in the past seems to indicate that more efficient use of classroom space would yield enough time and space to accommodate the few classes that would realize a substantial increase. The committee found that few courses would be in need of additional teaching assistants or readers. Therefore, it recommended ten additional TAs be included in the model to be assigned as needed.
The committee looked at two years of salary and course enrollment data to estimate the additional sections and teaching resources that would be needed to cover a 15% increase in College enrollment. As Table 2 illustrates, the needs are as follows: 42 core sections, 1 language section, 2 chem labs, and 4 advanced seminars are needed. In addition, 12 open enrollment courses would be offered. These would be staffed by 8 additional junior faculty who will teach 4 course sections per year for a total of thirty-two additional course sections. Sixteen of these will be in Lit Hum and CC, 4 of these will be seminars and the remaining 12 will be open enrollment courses. The remaining fixed enrollment sections (Core, chem labs and language) will be taught by 26 preceptors.
Although class sizes vary greatly, even within departments, an estimate as to how the average class size would increase is offered in Table 3. These open enrollment courses are split into two categories: 1) introductory or 1000 level courses; and 2) lecture courses, usually used as electives or to fulfill major requirements. As the committee recommended, those courses that would realize an increase large enough to warrant it would receive the assignment of an additional TA or reader. 8
In addition to instructional costs, academic support and instructional support costs have been included in the model. These include departmental advising, admissions and financial aid services, career services, dean of students operations, and instructional support services. The additional cost per student was estimated using guidelines established by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. (These costs are included as variable costs subtracted from the total additional revenue.) These costs total approximately $750,000 in the first year of steady state. The total of instruction, academic support, and instructional support for the incremental students in steady state is approximately $1,500,000.
In adding significant numbers of students, it is likely that certain centrally-managed services will require additional resources to meet demand (these are called "common costs"). For planning purposes, an average per student cost of $933 was developed, and included in the pro forma analysis as an expense. 9 This amount represents a place-holder for such costs, rather than a precise measure of the true incremental activity (and related costs) that the students will create. It is likely that very few administrative units will need any additional resources to accommodate 530 additional students over the current University-wide student enrollment of roughly 20,000." 10 However, a handful of units--such as physical education, Student Financial Services, and Academic Computing--whose costs tend to rise or fall with changes in enrollments more so than other units, may find it difficult to accommodate the demand within their current budgets. More analysis is required to determined the precise amount of funding that is needed, and for which administrative units. At the full 15% enrollment increase, the annual expense related to central services is $495 thousand (530 students x $933).
Student Quality Enhancements
To meet the goals outlined in section II, two principal initiatives can be thought of as being financed in part with the revenues generated by an increase in College enrollment: the construction of a new student center to replace Ferris Booth Hall, and major renovations to two existing residence halls. At least in part, the rationale for making these priorities for improvement is that students consistently rate Columbia's current facilities as poor. Consider how graduating College students rated key services at their institution, compared to ratings by students at seven other institutions. (Figure 3)
The student center, once completed, will be a locus of cultural, social, recreational, and community service activities on campus--all of which will foster greater interaction among students and ultimately a greater sense of community that students now report as lacking. In part, this will be achieved through greatly expanded and improved dining, student activity, theater and film, and lecture/special event spaces. The cost of the new student center is estimated to be $68.4 million. Of this amount, approximately $33 million is expected to be covered with fundraising ($25 million has already been pledged). Of the balance, $34.4 million is to be financed with debt, to be amortized over twenty-five years at 9%. 11 The debt service will be covered in four ways: 35.8% will be covered by the Arts and Sciences; 29% will be shared among all Morningside schools; 29% will be covered with an increase in student fees, to be imposed after the center is in operation; and 6% will be covered by the School of Engineering and Applied Science. For the purposes of the financial model, the Arts and Sciences share of the debt service--approximately $1.2 million annually--is included as an expense.
Although Columbia has invested a significant amount of resources to renovate its residence halls over the past decade, it is clear that students rate their residences relatively poorly. While additional resources (from a portion of each year's room rate revenues) will continue to be invested to keep existing buildings on a steady cycle of repair and maintenance, they are generally not sufficient to undertake major renovation of residence halls. The financial model incorporates the partial cost of renovating two residence halls--Wien and Woodbridge--at a combined cost of $8 million. These renovations will bring annual debt service payments of $806 thousand. Additional capital investments from the Residence Halls budget will be needed to complete the financing of these two renovations.
The construction of a new residence hall, the closing of River (a poor quality facility that probably does not merit further capital investments), and the renovations of Wien and Woodbridge will result in a significant improvement in the quality of Columbia's undergraduate residence halls, as indicated in Figure 4.
At the first year of the full 15% enrollment increase, $2.5 million will be available to invest in faculty compensation, new or enhanced academic programs and initiatives, and upgrades to laboratories and other Arts and Sciences facilities. Figure 5 presents the difference between the total revenues generated by added enrollments, and the costs that are described in section B beginning on page 7. Decisions as to how to utilize these resources, and in what proportions, will be made by the leadership of the Arts and Sciences, in conjunction with the faculty. In each succeeding year, during which tuition revenue will grow in real terms by 2% (6% nominal growth less 4% inflation), and during which much of the other costs decline in real terms (e.g., fixed annual debt service payments decline by 4% in real terms), resources for academic enhancements will grow more rapidly than inflation. Five years after reaching the new steady-state enrollment level, for example, the resources for academic enhancements are projected to be $4.0 million annually (current dollars).
The value of marginal resources of such amounts--even in the context of a $170 million Arts and Sciences annual operating budget--can hardly be overstated. 12 Table 4 provides illustrations of what $1 million or $2 million of incremental financial resources can potentially translate into, above what could probably be absorbed if the only "new" stream of revenues each year were tuition rate increases.
Figure 5 presents a summary of the total amount of incremental tuition that could be generated and how those revenues would be deployed. "Variable" costs are those that vary directly with additional student enrollments, and include the financial aid, housing expansion, administrative support, and instructional and academic support costs that are described in section B above. "Student Quality Enhancements" are those related to the student center and the renovations of Wien and Woodbridge. "Academic Enhancements" are resources that can be devoted to improvements in the academic departments of the arts and sciences--improvements that will accrue largely to the benefit of Columbia College students.
The enrollment increases will be carried out in a phased manner and will be subject to the conditions set forth in section III, in order to minimize the potential risks to both academic quality and financial integrity. This process will serve to avoid, for example, a deterioration in student selectivity (i.e. an increase in the proportion of applicants who are admitted) caused by enrolling additional students; each spring, judgments will be made regarding the size and depth of the applicant pool and, therefore, the ability to add students that year.
There are, nevertheless, certain vulnerabilities that could potentially threaten the extent to which additional financial resources will be made available from an enrollment gain. These are discussed below:
Columbia College today faces a set of challenges and opportunities as it approaches the twenty-first century. Since its inception in 1754 as King's College with eight students enrolling, the College has had a history of ordered and planned growth that has been linked to improved quality. Today the College is far more diverse and interesting than it was in the 1960s, when it was smaller. Today the College is far more interesting with 50% women, and with tremendous geographic and talent diversity than it was in 1983 when women were first admitted--and it is somewhat larger. Today the College is far better for being fully residential and larger than it was when 40% of its students commuted to it. Today, despite its larger size, it is far more difficult to gain admission to the College than it was a decade ago--a reflection of its increasing appeal among very highly qualified college-bound students. There is nothing intrinsically good or bad about being a particular size so long as we are vigilant that quantity must always serve the goal of quality.
Columbia College, and the academic departments that teach and mentor its students, has an important opportunity to enhance both its quality and reputation over the coming decade. The enhancement of the undergraduate program is an important institutional objective, because it will produce significant gains for the quality and reputation of the entire institution. The gains that are sought--in facilities, student services, academic programs, and greater alumni satisfaction and loyalty over the long term--can be achieved in part with the net revenues generated by a roughly 15% enrollment increase that is phased in over a period of years. The enrollment increase is contingent on preserving a number of critical institutional values, including: a commitment to small class size, maintenance of current financial aid policy, and sustaining or improving the quality of incoming students. The financial model developed suggests that the additional revenues that an enrollment increase would generate--net of the additional costs that would be needed to accommodate the additional students and preserve the values of the program--are compelling enough to move forward.
Through all of these changes, the College's commitment to its curriculum, to excellence in teaching, and to need-blind admissions/full-need financial aid has remained unchanged. And tomorrow, if we preserve these elements in the College that make it the great educational enterprise that it is, we can make it still better. The further improvement in the standing of the College--both within and outside the University--will be made possible by a modest further increase in its size.
The opportunities are there to be seized. It is time to bring the College into the very center of the University--to a place that it should rightfully occupy.
Columbia University Record -- February 9, 1996 -- Vol. 21, No. 16