Is Columbia Ready for Our Recession/Depression?

Economic downturns are part of a painful and predictable
reality for universities, but — perhaps purposely — few have
long term strategic plans to deal with budget cuts.


None but the most optimistic of stock brokers (paid to buy or sell regardless) are not deeply worried about the state of the economy — U.S. and also global. The stock markets have been dropping rather precariously this month and the job picture — particularly for college grads trying to get launched — is grim.

Where in this picture does Columbia stand? Yale and Harvard have been putting great efforts into planning for their undergrads — now tuition blind admissions for them allow the choice of the best, regardless of family incomes. It can make a vast difference for students, particularly when families are being hit by economic hardships induced by health, death, job emergencies.

Is Columbia revising its plans in light of the obvious? To date it has been laying out astounding funds for administrative salaries and perks. I don’t know where its faculty are in this picture, but they presumably will be feeling the pinch with inflation and increased living costs. One has to wonder how Columbia is going to manage its ambitious expansion plans into Manhattanville? It has sunk considerable monies there with high expectations for fund raising and NY State loans. But will both of these sources be able to meet this high risk project’s demands? NY State, itself, is not in the best of shape — one of the states with the largest debt pictures and its own public universities to maintain. My department of philosophy at Brooklyn College alone was matching Columbia’s students with awards of prestigious grants and fellowships — quite a bargain for the expenditures for a college education which increasing numbers were taking on with our special CUNY honors programs designed for gifted students.

The bottom line here — will Columbia be driven into even higher tuitions for undergrads to keep its heat and light bills paid. I would hate to be a parent of a Columbia student with such possible prospects entering the picture during the grim financial years to come.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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