The school's enrollment more than quintupled over four decades as it went from renting classroom space in the 1970s to becoming the South Loop's largest landowner.
But enrollment has slipped each year since 2008 — down this fall nearly 7 percent from a peak of 12,464 — prompting concern at a school that has only recently embraced outside fundraising and is heavily dependent on tuition revenue. When Carter announced a plan for "prioritization" last year, some suspected the process was a means of cost-cutting after decades of expanding budgets.
The challenges Columbia faces are like those confronting universities across the country. But Columbia has pointedly never considered itself like other schools.
"Columbia had a lot of artists, people I would consider to be outsiders," said Dan Dinello, a film professor who retired this spring after more than 30 years at Columbia. "Maybe people feel like their livelihoods are threatened. Maybe we thought Columbia was going to grow forever, but it's not a perpetual thing."
Change, or discussion about change, has upset nearly everyone at Columbia to some degree. Several high-level administrators have departed or were dismissed over the past year, two beloved department chairmen were removed — then reinstated amid campus protests — and Occupy Columbia has staged sit-ins and seeded campus meetings with protesters.What will this mean for the college? Who knows. The South Loop is better with a strong Columbia College. Hope things get better for them.