Message from the PresidentIt’s been a challenging year for Columbia College Chicago. Like everyone else, we’ve felt the effects of the economic downturn. Parents are losing their jobs. Loans are more difficult to come by. Even as the necessity of a college education becomes evermore apparent, finding the means to attain that goal has become more elusive for many.
The difficulty posed by the current economic climate is coupled with another major challenge for the college: keeping ahead of the breakneck cultural and technological changes taking place in the arts and media disciplines we teach. But we are Columbia. We know that not only can we meet these challenges, we can overcome them and emerge a stronger, healthier, better institution.
For the first time since I came to Columbia in 2000, enrollment is down—not dramatically, but it is down about 330 students from a year ago. At the same time, interest is up—we have received more applications this year than ever in our history. It’s not that people don’t want to be here, it’s that the economy is making it difficult for them to come.
So how are we responding to the challenges? We’ve decided that our priority for our students is twofold: to hold down the increase in tuition and to provide financial assistance to those who need it. To that end, we are increasing tuition only 3.3 percent for next year, and we are putting more money into scholarships. In the fall of 2009 we had 500 scholarships for new students—in the fall of 2010, we will double that, providing 1,000 scholarships for new students. Our faculty and staff have really risen to this challenge, taking it on as their own by launching the Faculty/Staff Scholarship Initiative. Using a grassroots, peer-to-peer approach, they have contributed nearly $100,000 that will go directly to students through scholarships. As a campus community, we should all be very proud of that accomplishment.
We’ve also risen to the challenges posed by our changing media culture. In the spring of 2010 we opened our new, state of the art Media Production Center. Not only does it incorporate the latest technology, it was built specifically to facilitate and accommodate our unique approach to arts and media education, providing unprecedented flexibility and opportunities for collaboration among our students and faculty. We’ve increased our number of smart classrooms and created more wireless hotspots—200 of them—throughout our campus. We’ve made improvements to our Learning Studio and created a Technology Commons. Our new security command center shortens response time in emergencies and makes our campus safer.
We’ve also responded to the changing academic needs of our students. We’ve instituted an honors program and launched initiatives to increase student retention, improve academic advising, and make our transfer policies friendlier. We have a brand new Fashion Studies department, which will be the largest in the country. We’re working harder to help our students launch their careers through our Career Initiatives Center and Web Agent online portfolio system.
A few years ago, we said Columbia College Chicago ruled the South Loop. Now, our reputation is national. We are looking to the future—we’re not looking back. Regardless of what’s going on in today’s economy, we will continue to improve, and we will work harder than ever to prepare our students for meaningful lives and careers in the creative industries. Our students, and Columbia College Chicago, have a future—and it’s a bright one.