What Columbia Is Known For
Life in New York. Although students and alumni benefit from (and generally enjoy) living in New York City, it is worth noting that New York can be a seductive and slightly distracting force—a simultaneous pro and con that more secluded schools like Tuck or Darden rarely contend with. With some Columbia students already residing in NYC upon matriculation, limited on-campus housing, and the sheer enormity of the city, it can be more challenging for Columbia students to form a cohesive group and to schedule team meetings. However, the vast majority of students live on the Upper West Side and in West Harlem, with many choosing to live with their MBA classmates.
Facilities. There is one other drawback of a location in New York: the cost of real estate. At the individual level, this is intuitive. But it also applies to Columbia Business School as a unit of Columbia University. Historically it has proven difficult for Columbia to “think big” about expansion around Morningside Heights; even small projects often arouse intense neighborhood pushback and delays, thereby increasing the cost. The school’s primary presence on campus, Uris Hall, is a rather ugly testimony to this fact. Though the building’s exterior was renovated in the mid-1990s, it still looks the uninspired box from the 1950s that it is, even if the large auditoriums for lectures have been updated to include state-of-the art communications technologies. Starting in 1999, some business classes began being held in the new Warren Hall (technically a Columbia Law building), and in 2002, permanent space in Warren Hall was transferred to the business school.
In 2007, Columbia University announced the plans for its Manhattanville Campus, a 17-acre site with trees and tastefully ambitious architecture from big-name star architects. The new site is located in West Harlem between 129th and 133th streets (just five blocks north of the existing campus), with 6.8 million square feet to be fully developed by 2030. The business school will occupy 450,000 of those square feet (up from a mere 280,000 available in existing facilities). This was most definitely helped by a $100 million gift from Columbia Business School alumni Henry Kravis in late 2010, and a second $100 million pledge from Ronald Perelman in May 2013. However, the recession, city red tape, and demolition mishaps have lengthened the overall project time line. As recently as 2013, the school had estimated the new campus to open in 2016, but construction still has not begun, and the school publishes no hints about the new opening date. If you’re applying to Columbia this year, don’t hold your breath for improved facilities while you’re there.