In response to CCSC’s survey about a proposed expansion of Columbia College, students shared their thoughts about campus life and how it would change with 500 new students at the school.

At the start of April, the Columbia College Student Council sent out a survey to all CC students to get a sense of current conditions at the school and how they would be affected by a 10% increase in admission. Now, the results of the survey have been released, and they show that across all areas the survey asked about, an overwhelming majority of students think expansion would have negative effects.

2,157 current Columbia College students responded to the survey, along with an additional 721 responses which were duplicates, didn’t include a UNI, or were from another Columbia school (SEAS, Barnard, or GS). Among respondents, 29% were current freshmen, 28.2% sophomores, 23.2% juniors, and 19.4% seniors.

The survey was divided into nine sections, each asking about a specific aspect of the undergraduate experience at CC. Most sections also included a free-text section where students could share their own thoughts, and the survey summary includes several representative quotes which addressed common sentiments among them.


Among the 89.5% of students currently on a meal plan, a majority expressed in every question broad dissatisfaction with their current dining experience. Only 29% of students said they were satisfied with the wait to get into a dining hall; only 15.1% were satisfied with how long it took to get food within a dining hall; and only 5.9% said they could easily find a seat in the dining halls. Almost all (86.1%) said they would like a 24-hour dining hall, as Columbia admissions claims. When asked about the effects of expansion on the student body, only 1.9% of students said they thought it would have a positive impact, and 86.3% believed it would have a negative impact.

Representative free-text responses:

  • “The dining experience is already overwhelming… I can’t imagine how much worse the conditions will become with increased enrollment.”
  • “At many hours of the day, it is considerably inconvenient to access food efficiently at the dining halls… [T]he spaces [are] physically too small to accommodate all the students at rush hour…”

Student Spaces:

Students were also broadly unhappy with the current amount of space available on campus or the services provided by Columbia. 31% of students said they were happy with the social spaces available, but fewer were happy with their ability to find a seat in the library during midterms or finals (11.5%), group study rooms (6.2%), or space for student groups (17.6%). Similarly low numbers supported expansion: only 2.6% of students indicated it would have a positive effect, while 78.8% predicted a negative impact.

Representative free-text responses:

  • “There is very rarely space in the library to work during exam periods, but this also carries on even when exam periods are not happening.”
  • “The difficulty to book meeting and rehearsal space for student groups has long been a significant obstacle to our organizing and community building. Of all the bureaucratic hurdles at Columbia, space is a particularly challenging one… I fear that expansion would exacerbate this problem and put a strain on student group leaders and administrators.”


The survey questions about Columbia housing were only asked of the 83.2% of students who said they were living on campus. More students were happy with the availability of residence hall lounges (45.5%) than not; however, a majority of students said they were not able to get into their first choice of residence hall (57%), suite or room (47.5%), or into a single (51%). And in the most unifying question on the survey, 93.3% said their room could not accommodate another student. Only 2% of students thought their single could become a double, or their double a triple.

Expansion remained unpopular. 1.9% of students thought expansion would have a positive effect on housing, and 89.2% said it would have a negative effect.

Representative free-text responses:

  • “…the physical state of Columbia residence halls is not able to handle an increase in student population of +10%.”

Campus Community:

Students were more divided over the questions about community than the previous topics, although still mostly unhappy. Only 33% of students were satisfied with their experience of student life events, and 21.9% were satisfied with Columbia’s efforts to facilitate community; a majority (55%) also said they’d been rejected from a club or didn’t apply due to the club’s selective nature. There were fresh wounds, too: 71% of students didn’t think there were enough Bacchanal tickets this year.

In the field of campus community, expansion was slightly more popular: 5.4% of students said it would have a positive effect, while 56.5% said it would have a negative effect.

Representative free-text responses:

  • “Even now, our events are unable to accommodate our full student body. If we expand, we decide that it’s okay for more and more students to be outright excluded from the things that make Columbia special.”


Mixed opinions abounded about advising: roughly half of students who answered were happy with the availability of their appointments or ease of communication with their advisor. Still, many students (49.2%) indicated they did not have a personal relationship with their advisor. Only 1.3% of responses indicated that advising would be positively affected by expansion, while 56.1% of responses indicated it would be negatively affected—although many students also remained neutral.

Representative free-text responses:

  • “I have a fantastic advisor, so I credit my positive experience to her. Other friends of mine have not been so lucky, and I imagine this would get worse if the [student] body is increased.”

Columbia Health & Counseling and Psychological Services:

The survey had no questions about how CPS would be affected by expansion, but students were still asked to rate their experience. For most questions, a plurality of students didn’t answer. Of those who did answer, most indicated they were dissatisfied with numerous aspects of Columbia Health, including John Jay medical wait times, CPS appointment availability and frequency, and CPS’s practice of referring students to off-campus providers after one semester of treatment.

Core Curriculum:

Questions about the Core Curriculum revealed that students were happier with the current class sizes, but not with their abilities to get into sections. Over half of students were satisfied with their Lit Hum or CC class size (58.7%) and their FroSci class size (54.5%). However, most students thought it was difficult to switch between Lit Hum, CC, or Fro Sci sections (52.3%) or to get into Music Hum or Art Hum (61.2%). Only 16.5% of students were able to get into their first choice Global Core courses, and only 15.3% were satisfied with the number of Global Core classes available.

69% of students said their experience would be worse if the size of the Core classes increased; likely due to that factor, only 2.1% of responses said expansion would benefit their experience of the Core, while 73.1% of responses disagreed.

Representative free-text responses:

  • “Not getting into Core classes is stressful because all of these courses are required for graduation. Expanding the student body, with all of the new students also needing to fulfill Core requirements, would make all of these problems even worse.”
  • “The hallmark of the Core are small Core classes… from S1 to S2, my LitHum class increased in size—not even by a lot, just by 5 or so students. Even then, the perceived difference was huge. I truly believe the smaller the Core classes, the truer to form and intention they are.”


Most students were happy with the academic support offered by their professors and TAs, and the ease of meeting with them. Class sizes and class registration were the main sources of unhappiness: 61.5% of students were dissatisfied with the number of times they’d had to join waitlists, and 45.2% were dissatisfied with available classroom sizes. Most students thought expansion would be bad for academics: 1.9% of students said expansion would have a positive impact, and 68.6% said it would have a negative impact.

Representative free-text responses:

  • “The classes are already way too large across the board to allow for personalized education, and I have never been able to get a class I really, really want to take. Even classes that I literally need to complete my major and graduate on time fill up before my first registration appointment.”

Research Opportunities:

Students were not asked to judge how expansion would impact their ability to find a research opportunity. Roughly 75% of students hadn’t had a research opportunity under a Columbia professor, but most indicated that it was difficult to obtain even for interested students.


The survey concludes that “Across all sections, the prevailing sentiment was against the proposal to expand the undergraduate class size.” 

CCSC is still analyzing the open-text responses submitted as part of the survey; this article will be updated with that information when it’s released. The full survey summary can be found below.

Expansion survey image via CCSC survey email