Almost all the students in Columbia University’s MFA Visual Arts program have demanded full tuition refunds due to decrepit facilities and absentee instructors. As the Columbia Spectator reported, 51 of the 54 students in the program met with Provost John Coatsworth and David Madigan, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, on April 5 and asked that their tuition — $63,961 for the 2017–18 school year — be refunded. Though Coatsworth reportedly concurred that the program is a “disgrace,” he told the students that the university could not provide them with refunds.
Columbia’s MFA visual arts program is consistently ranked among the 10 best in the US and the world, both by general interest college ranking sites and by arts publications. Meanwhile, one rubric where it often comes first is the cost of tuition. It has far and away the highest tuition rate of the schools on College Choice’s list of the “25 Best MFA Degrees for 2018,” and its fees page notes: “Historically, tuition and fees have risen each year.” Columbia University’s Lee Bollinger is the highest-paid president of a private university; in 2013, his compensation totaled $4.6 million.