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Institute Ponders 8% Tuition Hike

By Jeremy Hylton
Managing Editor

The Academic Council discussed increasing next year's tuition by 6 to 8 percent at its meeting on Tuesday, according to James J. Culliton, vice president for financial operations. The council also looked at employee salaries and the self-help level.

It was the third time this year the council met to advise President Charles M. Vest on a tuition hike. Vest will present his recommendation to the Executive Committee of the Corporation at its March meeting.

"I think there's a very strong interest in the administration to moderate tuition increases and I think they're going to do everything within reason to do that," Culliton said. Neither Vest nor Provost Mark S. Wrighton could be reached for comment on the final recommendation.

Culliton presented two budget models to the council for discussion. One, which has been seen by the Executive Committee, would raise tuition by about 8 percent, from $16,900 to about $18,300 a year. The same model would increase the self-help level by about 6 or 7 percent, from $5700 to about $6050.

A model with about a 6 percent increase was also presented so "that the Academic Council can see the effect on the bottom line of each $100 as compared to salary increases and so forth," Culliton explained. That model includes a smaller raise in the self-help level.

MIT's self-help level, the highest in the nation, was the most important issue discussed, according to Undergraduate Association President Stacy E. McGeever '93. "I think that any increase in the self-help level is too high, but a 6 percent increase is way too high," she said.

"The Institute underestimates how much of a burden it places on the families of students who pay the self-help level, but really kill themselves to do it," McGeever said. The stress it creates can affect academic performance and the decision to attend graduate school, she said.

Arthur C. Smith, dean for undergraduate education and student affairs, agreed that the self-help level is important. "Are we asking reasonable amounts? We're near the threshold, but not over it."

Smith and Culliton said that the average student earns enough money after graduation to repay his debt. "Certainly there are anecdotes of students who say they can't go to graduate school, but I don't think we have any evidence of that," Smith said.

The two models include salary increases for Institute employees of roughly 5.5 percent for the higher tuition model, and about 4 percent for the lower. The size of employee raises is tied almost directly to the size of the tuition increase, according to Culliton. "The major source of revenue is tuition and the major source of expense is salary. You can get down to where it's almost a direct tradeoff between salary and tuition."

The Institute's budget is over $1 billion, but approximately 70 percent of that budget is research funding that the Institute has little control over. "We're looking at an operating budget that we have major control over that is about $200 million," Culliton said. Tuition accounts for $180 million of that budget.

The Academic Council discussed the need for salaries to remain competitive with other universities. "An attempt was made to give sufficient dollars so that you can attract junior faculty ... and retain senior faculty," Culliton said.

Smith favored smaller increases in salary and tuition. "Right now is the time to keep the tuition increase as small as possible. If that means a relatively small increase for salary, then that is appropriate," he said.

Smith said he would choose the 6 percent tuition increase if he were forced to choose between the two models. "I'm not particularly eager to pick the lower of the two as the best," he cautioned.

The lower salary increases also received some support from Dean of Engineering Joel Moses PhD '67. "I think this year, given the situation at other universities, a smaller increase will be acceptable," he said.