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MIT to propose largest tuition hike in five years

By Irene C. Kuo

Tuition at MIT may rise by $1,100 from $13,400 in 1988-1989 to $14,500 in 1989-1990, according to President Paul E. Gray '54. The 8.2 percent increase would be the largest in the past five years.

The self-help level, which has remained at $4900 for four years, may rise to $5300. The Executive Committee will make an official decision on both increases in March.

Despite the increases, MIT expects a $6 million deficit in fiscal 1990, according to Gray. The deficit for the present fiscal year is $2.7 million.

Gray could not predict whether tuition increases of the proposed size would be a trend. "We take these figures one year at a time," he said. "We look at more than one year into the future, but we set the numbers for the immediate coming year." In the past five years, tuition increases at MIT have hovered near 7 percent. Only once in those years was it closer to 6 percent.

Dartmouth plans to raise tuition by 7.5 percent, the University of Pennsylvania by 8 percent, and Wellesley by 9 percent, according to Gray. He did not know the figures at other schools.

Gray has said in the past that many other universities have the advantage that earnings from endowments cover their costs. "MIT's endowment is substantial in absolute terms, but it is not large in the context of MIT. In absolute terms, the size of MIT's endowment ranks around 7th. Harvard has the largest at $4 billion; MIT has about $1.2-1.3 billion. However, you must relate absolute endowment to size of institution. [Taking the number of faculty members and graduate students], MIT is 20th-30th," he explained.

Students should not have expected the self-help level to remain at $4900 forever, Gray said. "The self-help level had to increase. The increase in the costs [of attending MIT] has to be born by both families and the Institute," he said. Though unrestricted or general funds used to support undergraduate scholarships at MIT have increased by a factor of 4.5 since 1980-1981, the federal government has not expanded its scholarship programs, he explained.

"The freeze in the self-help level was carried out one year at a time," said Leonard V. Gallagher '54, director of student financial aid. "We were warned each time that it would have to go up the next year."

Since the program's inception in 1967-1968, the self-help level at MIT has been larger than at any of its competitors, according to Gray. "It's not something to be proud of; I'm just stating a fact," he said.

The Executive Committee held the self-help level constant during the past four years to allow other institutions to catch up to MIT, according to Gray. With the increase in the self-help level, MIT may no longer be closing the gap between itself and other schools, but at least it will be sustaining the gap, he noted.

Gallagher, however, said that it is not fair to compare MIT's self-help level with other universities' levels because MIT does not compete with them on financial aid packages. While other schools stagger their financial aid packages to attract the best students, the only factor which MIT considers is economic need.

Tuition increases have a negative impact, but it is hard to appraise the size of their effect on applications and enrollment when so many other components are involved, Gray said. These include the decrease in the number of applications to most private schools, the decline in enrollment at engineering schools, and the decrease in the number of_18-year-olds.

Despite the annual tuition increases, the distribution by family income of MIT freshman aid applicants across the national income quartiles has been stable, according to Gray. "There has been a steady upward trend in the lowest income quartile, and a downward trend in the highest income quartile," he said.

It is still too early to tell how the Opportunity Awards Program, in its first year, is faring, according to Gallagher. For the next seven years, the program will identify the 125 neediest students in each incoming class and award an average of $2000 to each one. The self-help level for each of these student is thus lowered by the amount he receives.

"Our objective is not so much to enroll low income students but to get more of them to apply to MIT, and we expect to meet this goal," Gallagher said. "The yield rate has traditionally been highest among the neediest students," he noted.