President Gerald Brouder was interviewed by David Lile on KFRU (1400 AM) Friday April 3 and talked about Columbia College’s safe navigation of today’s choppy financial waters.
The interview kicked off with the college’s recent stunning sports successes, especially the men’s basketball team which made it to the NAIA title game. Brouder said he was very proud of Coach Burchard and the entire team. He added that the coach and team received a good sportsmanship award from the NAIA because the college prides itself on civility and respect.
Brouder then talked about the college’s finances: he said that the college had lost roughly $8 million of its $43 million endowment. That’s about an 18 percent loss, which Brouder said is high, but quite good considering most colleges are down 25 to 30 percent. He added that overall the college is doing quite well, with about $100 million in total assets.
“We don’t take chances, said Brouder, “we take calculated risks. The Board of Trustees has a finance and audit committee that has been conservative since before I got here. We keep within the overarching notion of fiscal conservatism. It has gotten the college through some very tough times.”
Lile then asked Brouder what he was most proud of, and Brouder said first and foremost the quality of the college’s curriculum. Brouder said the college carefully ensured it gave students a firm foundation for success, but that the college was not afraid to alter those core requirements when circumstances so required. For instance, he said, ethics continues to be a requirement; but the college has in recent years added a language requirement because society has become multicultural.
Brouder added that the quality of the college’s instructors, most of whom have a master’s degree or higher, was so great that “I'd stack our faculty up against any institution in the world. They’re that good. They get to know their students one on one, through advising and teaching.” Brouder added that the college’s largest class is 30 students, the average class 14-15 students. “You don’t get that kind of engagement in a lecture hall of 250 plus students.” He added that students and teachers form strong bonds due to this individual attention.
Brouder also said that the quality of students has increased as entry standards have been raised and students with higher GPA are admitted.
Lile said he had been on campus recently, and was amazed by its transformation, especially of the renovated Dulany Hall cafeteria. Brouder said that was just one of many recently completed or ongoing infrastructure improvements: the construction of the Atkins-Holman Student Commons and renovation to St. Clair Hall and Missouri halls; the purchase of the Columbia Photo property on Tenth Street; and the upcoming science initiative. Brouder said the college will likely build a new science building on the site of the softball field on Rangeline; the softball field would then relocate to the east side of Rangeline.
Brouder said plans for the Columbia Photo property were not yet finalized but would be soon, and added that it would likely be used for an Online Campus expansion. “We have space needs that far exceed just that building,” said Brouder. “Our online program is growing exponentially and it’s very likely it will move into the renovated building. We started that program 9 years ago with two people; now we have 32, with 9,000 students.” The building may also house a test proctoring center with computers where students can take proctored exams; a call center; or for storage, he said.
Brouder added that the college’s trend was definitely toward online education and that many online options would be explored in the near future, such as buying kits, not just textbooks, for beginning online biology and chemistry classes. “We don’t currently have benches to put students in, so this is a viable option,” Brouder said. “We’re innovative in that respect.”
In conclusion, Brouder said, the college was going through a difficult time well.