GSC Urges MIT to Change Status RuleBy Nick Nassuphis
The Graduate Student Council unanimously passed a resolution last month urging MIT to drop the resident-only thesis defense requirement, saying the requirement imposes a financial hardship on students. The change would only present a minimal financial cost for the Institute, according to the resolution.
A graduate student who has completed his or her coursework can apply for non-resident status and pay only 15 percent of the regular tuition in exchange for forfeiting access to many Institute resources, such as laboratories and libraries. Some types of graduate theses do not require access to these MIT resources.
A number of students are currently completing their thesis under non-resident status. For the final term of thesis defense, non-resident students pay 50 percent of tuition during the first half of the term. After that, the tuition deduction decreases gradually until students are asked to pay full tuition for a entire semester of thesis work.
The Graduate Student Council argues that this 50 percent minimum charge is unreasonably high, since a typical defense only lasts a few weeks, and does not require many Institute resources.
"I have a personal sympathy for this issue ... and I am planning to bring it to the attention of the provost and the Committee on Graduate Student policy," said Professor Frank E. Perkins '55, dean of the graduate school. He said that MIT introduced the non-resident student status over a decade ago because a number of students who completed their coursework did not enroll for a period of time and applied for re-admission after they completed their theses in order to avoid paying full tuition.
Perkins said that students who are not enrolled at MIT do not have access to benefits such as health insurance and may have to start repaying their student loans. The non-resident status was introduced to allow students to continue their affiliation with the Institute without having to pay full tuition.
When this rule was adopted, tuition was low enough for the difference between 15 percent and 50 percent to be a reasonable fee for the use of resources like photocopiers, libraries and laboratories, says Gerald B. Lumer G, who drafted the resolution. After a decade of continuous tuition increases, the difference between resident and non-resident tuition rates does not reflect the extra cost imposed on MIT in accepting a thesis, he continued.
Departmental funding varies
Institute tuition has risen steadily over the last decade. Students pursuing graduate studies have been spared the full impact of these increases because they usually receive some form of financial support.
However, certain departments do not fund graduate students for the full period of their studies, primarily because of a lack of funding. The trend towards longer study periods, combined with adverse funding conditions in departments such as linguistics, urban studies, and architecture has put a number of graduate students under increased financial strain. The people who are forced to pay the last semester's tuition are those that can least afford it, Lumer explained, adding that students in departments such as political science and economics, who have suffered the most from the recent downturn of the job market, are particularly affected.
"I cannot predict what the final decision will be. All factors must be carefully evaluated, since a cost to the Institute is involved, which I do not believe to be high," Perkins said.