May 1, 2018

Columbia MFA students are demanding a tuition refund amid complaints about the program.

All but three of the 54 students in the fine arts masters program at Columbia are alleging serious flaws in the program that merit the return, in full, of this year’s tuition. The group met with Columbia Provost John Coatsworth and Dean David Madigan earlier this week to request that their tuition, which totals $63,961 per year, be refunded. Speaking with the Columbia Spectator, students said they went into the pricy two-year degree with the expectation they would be able to dedicate themselves entirely to their work. Instead, they have had to grapple with crumbling ceilings, temperature fluctuations that damaged artworks, and numerous faculty who are on sabbatical or not teaching for other reasons.
“We were promised something that we don’t have and we’re not getting,” student Elsa Lama told the Spectator. Coatsworth reportedly agreed with the student’s dire assessment of the program, calling it a “disgrace,” but said the school would not refund the cost. Some faculty, too, are on the students side, with professor Jon Kessler calling it “almost criminal” to charge so much money for an arts degree and leave students facing six-figure debt. By comparison, Yale’s fine arts masters costs $36,359.