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Tuition Increases Outpaces Earnings

By Eva Moy
Editor in Chief

At $20,100, MIT will top the list for tuition cost for the 1994-95 academic year, along with schools such as Princeton University, Harvard University, Stanford University, and Yale University.

The total projected cost of attending MIT will be $28,400, which includes tuition, room, board, travel expenses, and textbooks. In addition, self-help requirements jumped from $7,100 to $7,650, a 7.7 percent increase.

The Academic Council approved the tuition increase March 8.

"It would be upsetting if tuition increased to the point where I no longer could [afford to] go here," said Michael J. Whitson '97, who added that he could have gotten a "free ride" from the University of California at Berkeley.

Whitson said that working six to eight hours each week only covers his personal expenses.

Erika K. Schutte '95 echoed that sentiment: "The most I've ever earned in a year is about $3,000." She added that she is looking for a summer job in industry because the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program does not pay enough.

Komkit Tukovinit '94 even projected the cost of tuition and self-help in the future. He said he calculated that by the year 2052, at the current rates of increase, self-help ($565,135) will finally exceed tuition ($558,695).

Still, "those involved in the decision [to raise tuition] try very hard to look at any data they have which gives insight into the real burdens that students and their parents carry," said Arthur C. Smith, dean for undergraduate education and student affairs.

"These data, plus the continuing high demand for admission to MIT, suggest that a lot of people believe that the education is worth the cost and that the resultant economic burdens are bearable," Smith said.

President Charles M. Vest said that the growing tuition rate "is a major motivation for our current efforts to reduce its operating expenses."

Some of the factors affecting the tuition increase include the extension of MITnet into undergraduate living groups, an increase in subscription prices of periodicals in the libraries, and an increase of salaries for faculty and staff, said Provost Mark S. Wrighton.

Even so, tuition traditionally only covers half of the cost of an MIT education, according to James J. Culliton, vice president for financial operations. The Institute makes up $18 million of the difference with grants from unrestricted funds, he said

Because the cost of hiring a UROP student will effectively double starting July 1, as the federal government withdraws its funding of UROP overhead costs, students may lose a possible source of income.

"I still have hopes that the decrease in UROP funding will not be as large as some fear," Smith said.

When creating a financial aid package, the Student Financial Aid Office considers a reasonable expectation of student employment, said Stanley G. Hudson, director of student financial aid.

The minimum wage is $6.90 for UROPs and $6.75 for other student jobs. Still, the maximum amount a student can earn with funding from the UROP office is $5,200 - $950 per term and $3,300 for the summer.

However, UROP Director Norma McGavern notes that that amount still falls below the self-help levels.

"The question of availability of jobs is not as big a problem as the quality of jobs. There will, I believe [be] sufficient jobs for students who want to work," Hudson said.

With less UROP funds to distribute, the "odds are slimmer for one person to get full funding," McGavern said. In addition, the UROP office gives priority to continuing research during the summer and new research for the fall and spring semesters, she said.

McGavern also suggested that students take their vacation at the end of summer instead of at the beginning. "Money you earn in June will cost less than the money you earn in July and August," she said, referring to the change in overhead billing on July 1.

MIT students have low loan default rate

Part of the $20,100 tuition includes self-help - the amount of money students are expected to provide from loans and term-time work before receiving scholarship assistance. MIT reduces the self-help levels for students from low-income families.

The Institute tries to set self-help at a level it feels students can meet, Hudson said.

The average percentage of the starting salary used to repay loans in the first year after graduation is just under 6 percent, according to the SFAO report released in January. Students should not worry until that number exceeds 10 percent, Culliton said.

In addition, MIT students have a lower default rate on Perkins and Stafford Loans than the national average, according to the SFAO report. For example, in 1992, the default rates were 5.9 percent for a Perkins Loan and 17.5 percent for a Stafford Loan nationally, compared to 0.5 percent and 1.7 percent for MIT graduates.

Both of these trends suggest that the level of loans is compatible with the earning capabilities of MIT students after graduation, Hudson said.

"The data I have seen indicates that MIT students do not utilize loans to the extent that I would expect based on their expectations of future income," Smith said. "However, the balance between loan and jobs is a matter for the individual to decide."

Ifung Lu contributed to the reporting of the story.