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Tuition to rise by 7.7%

By Karen Kaplan

Undergraduate tuition for the academic year 1991-92 is expected to increase by about 7.7 percent, according to James J. Culliton, vice president for financial operations. The final decision about next year's tuition will likely be decided at the March 1 meeting of the Academic Council, he said.

A tuition increase of $1200, or 7.7 percent, has been worked into the model for next year's operating budget. This would bring next year's total tuition to $16,800. The actual increase will be between $1100 and $1300.

The self-help level, which is the portion of tuition that must be provided by students and their families excluding loans and grants, was raised by $300 to $6000.

Last year, tuition went up by $1100, or 7.6 percent.

"The most important point is that what's in the budget is just a model, and that it can vary," Culliton said. "It's not decided yet at all. [The increase] could be either higher or lower."

The final decision about tuition will be made by President Charles M. Vest with the advice and guidance of the Academic Council. Council members include Vest, Provost Mark S. Wrighton, associate provosts, vice presidents and deans. Vest will most likely make a recommendation to the council at its March 1 meeting, which it is expected to approve, according to Culliton.

"We like to have a final figure [on tuition] by the March Academic Council meeting so that we can send it out with the admissions and financial aid packets," Culliton said.

More expenses anticipated

One reason for increasing undergraduate tuition is to curb the deficits MIT has been running in the recent past. The high level of spending in the past two years is expected to create deficits in the future, even if spending is curbed. The deficit for 1991 is $4.5 million, and is expected to be $5.5 million in 1992 and $6.5 million in 1993, Culliton said.

Culliton pointed out that these deficits were very small in comparison to MIT's annual budget of approximately $1.07 billion. Nonetheless, tuition will be raised in part to avoid a net deficit in next year's budget.

A variety of factors are taken into account when setting tuition. "We look at how much academic program support is needed, at salaries and at expenses," Culliton said. The amount of unrestricted money needed to continue need-blind admissions is also considered. "Our major source of revenue is tuition income," he said.

Culliton said that tuition pays for only half of what it costs to educate each student for a year. "The real question [in setting tuition] is how much of a subsidy to give," he continued.

The plan that Culliton prefers would raise the tuition to $16,900 a year, $100 higher than the level in the model, and would have a budget surplus of $1 million. The extra $100 would be added to the self-help tuition category. This money could be spent on academic computing, increased salaries, rising energy costs, capital and student aid.

"For the first time, we'll need a chunk of money to support academic computing [because corporate sponsorship of Athena will be ending]," Culliton said. "Energy costs are likely to be much higher next year. We have to raise salaries in order to attract and keep the best professors. And as tuition rises, we have to add to our unrestricted funds in order to continue a need-blind admissions policy," he continued.

The higher the tuition, the more money that must be on reserve in the form of unrestricted funds in order to maintain MIT's need-blind admissions process. In the recent past, the elimination of need-blind admissions was considered. "I think the Institute is committed to continue need-blind admissions," Culliton said. "There was no sentiment [among the Academic Council] to move off it."

Getting information to

students a "big concern"

According to Culliton, a "big concern" of the Academic Council was informing students about why tuition is increased annually and how their money is spent. The issue was discussed at the Council's meeting last Tuesday.

Undergraduate Association President Manish Bapna '91 and Graduate Student Council President Michael D. Grossberg G attended the meeting to make recommendations about "improving the lines of communication between students and those members of the committee that make policy decisions," said Bapna.

"If students are given justified reasons why tuition and self-help levels are set as such before decisions are made, students would understand and respect [the Academic Council's] decisions much more," Bapna continued. "Otherwise they'll feel disenfranchised, which won't do much to integrate the community."

Culliton noted that two years ago, the UA sponsored a question and answer session with former President Paul E. Gray '54 in Room 54-100. However, very few students showed up.

Bapna said that the lecture-hall approach to information dissemination was not effective because "this community doesn't work well . . . with large forums."

He and Grossberg suggested a three-step process by which the council could inform students. "We suggested that they print an open letter in The Tech explaining their rationale [for the tuition increase], that they give a financial analysis, and that they make a letter with complete information available to students," he said. The UA Committee on Financial Aid would be interested in assisting the council in its work, Bapna added.

Bapna reported that the council was "very responsive" to the student requests. "Everyone listened very carefully, and they seemed interested in improving the lines of communication."

Culliton said that Director of Student Financial Aid Leonard V. Gallagher '54 suggested moving up the Academic Council meeting at which tuition increases are first discussed next year so that more student input can be incorporated into the process.

Last year's protest following the announcement of tuition for the 1990-91 academic year "displayed the frustration students felt about the whole process," said Bapna.