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Columbia College Chicago
Letter from the President
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Standing Strong
L to R: Theater students Alex Farrington, Zachary Hawkins, and Anne Sears.

Letter from the President


Columbia College Chicago has a unique energy and creative spirit. We are eager, unapologetic, playful, and innovative. We are always ready with new ideas, strong opinions, and different approaches to education, culture, and the issues of the day. Our students and faculty are not merely studying and absorbing the world around us, they are creating it. They are, as our mission states, preparing to author the culture of our time—or are already doing so. In this, our 2008 annual report, we offer a snapshot of an institution on the rise, a college that is not only growing—enrollment has increased more than 20 percent over the past five years—but is improving by any measure. We are not only attracting more students, we are attracting more diverse students and better-prepared students, and they are reporting
increased satisfaction with their campus experience.

I would be remiss, however, if I took this opportunity only to celebrate our success and not to acknowledge the unprecedented challenges the current year has brought. Like everyone, we are very concerned about the economy and its effect on our students, their families, and the college. Like others’, our endowment has been hit hard, but unlike many institutions, which draw anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of their annual operating expenses from their endowments, we fund nothing. Zero. So our ability to handle everyday operating expenses has not been affected. That’s good for us.

What’s of greater immediate concern is the ability of our students and their families to pay tuition, as we are a tuition-driven institution. So we are concentrating our efforts on keeping Columbia affordable. We’re coming at this from two directions: keeping costs down, and building scholarships up. In terms of holding back expenditures, we acted early. We’ve initiated a hiring freeze and cut back on travel. We’ve limited construction, delaying nonessential projects. The completion of the Media Production Center, Columbia’s first new construction building, is the notable exception. We are examining each and every expense, and being smarter in our use of technology. All told, we will save $10 to $12 million this year alone. We are also making a commitment to provide more scholarship support to our students. Currently, the college awards about $7.5 million in scholarships to 1,700 students. In fall 2009, we will increase that amount by $4 million, providing college-sponsored scholarships to about 2,300 students: a 46 percent increase. We are also keeping our tuition increase modest: less than 3 percent.

We know the ground feels shaky right now, but we have made solid decisions that have positioned the institution well, and we are standing strong. Students want to come here—applications for fall 2009 are up 14 percent. They understand the relevance of an arts and media education, grounded in the liberal arts. And we understand what to do to ensure that Columbia College Chicago remains accessible to them.

Warrick L. Carter, Ph.D.
President, Columbia College Chicago