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Corporation Passes 5% Tuition Increase


Comparison of MIT Tuition Increases Against Inflation - Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics - Tech Graphic by Saul Blumenthal
This graph plots the rise in tuition between the 1989-90 and 1997-98 academic years against increases solely due to inflation during that time period. The latter plot is the tuition level had all increases in tuition since 1989-90 been a result solely of inflation, as calculated by the Consumer Price Index.

By Zareena Hussain
Associate news editor

The Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation approved a 5 percent tuition hike for the 1997-98 academic year, President Vest announced at Friday's Corporation meeting.

This amounts to an increase of $1,100 to a tuition level of $23,100. Including a projected increase in the cost of room and board by 3.1 percent, the total cost for an MIT education during the coming year will be about $29,650.

While the costs of tuition and room and board increased, the student self-help level will remain the same at $8,600. Self-help includes the base amount expected of students to contribute toward financing their education before receiving scholarship assistance, and it includes MITterm-time work, loans, and savings.

Expenses justified by high costs

"MIT's tuition is slightly larger than many of our peer private institutions. Around 80 percent or more of what we do is directed at education in engineering and science, which are expensive in terms of excellent faculty, staff, and infrastructure," said President Charles M. Vest.

"The education we provide is expensive, intrinsically," said Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams.

"Faculty and staff deserve merit increases in salary and wages, and infrastructure and services need to be maintained and improved. It is important to understand that tuition revenues pay less than half of the actual cost of an MITeducation," Vest said.

"We estimate the actual cost of an undergraduate's education is about $44,550," said Director of Student Financial Aid Stanley G. Hudson.

Another reason for the increase is the steady decrease in federal funding, Williams said.

"I continually worry about the cost of education, but I am pleased that we have kept the growth of the student budget (tuition, room and board) to within about one and a half percent of the [Consumer Price Index] for the last three years," Vest said.

The Consumer Price Index is a standard benchmark used to calculate inflation.

"The cost of education increases and does so faster than the Consumer Price Index. MIT's educational programs are both labor and capital intensive, and tuition is a major source of unrestricted income for the Institute," Hudson said.

Self-help level remains the same

"I think the levelling off of self-help levels is a wonderful message to students that the administration is concerned," Williams said. It is a "message of support and relief to students," she said.

Still, the self-help level expected of students at the Institute is still higher than that of comparable institutions. MIT ranked highest in self-help level in a comparison of 10 peer institutions, including the Ivy League colleges, the California Institute of Technology, and StanfordUniv-ersity, Williams said. Cornell University's self-help level, which was the second highest in the group, is $7,270.

"Self-help [at MIT] has always been higher because of better employment opportunities and a higher wage," Hudson said.

The high percentage of self-help level to tuition is a result of a decade-old policy regarding tuition and self-help increase, Williams said. The administration then decided to keep percentage increases in tuition lower than the percentage increases in self-help, she said. "This year represented the opportunity to make an important correction."

Despite this year's trend, there is "no expectation that self-help can be held level" in future years, Williams said. However, there will be "efforts to moderate the rate of increase as much as possible."

Last year, the self-help level increased $450, or 5.5 percent.

"Definitely, the administration is listening to student concerns," said Undergraduate Association President Richard Y. Lee '97. "I was at the Academic Council meeting when they decided [on the increase]. As an undergraduate, the strongest case Icould make was not to raise the self-help level."

Lee said he felt Vest considered the advice in keeping the self-help level constant. In any case, "it's very difficult to earn that kind of money."

Grant money expected to increase

Along with tuition increases, MIT-based scholarship grants are expected to increase to $27.7 million, a $1.5 million rise from this year.

Total funding for grants to needy students comes from four sources: the federal government, outside private scholarships, MIT's endowment, and MIT's unrestricted funds.

In the current year, revenue from MIT's endowment and unrestricted funds accounted for 77 percent of total grant money.

"Since the other sources are fixed regardless of the student budget, the increase in costs to MIT associated with holding self-help constant is paid for from additional unrestricted funds," Hudson said.

This year, 59 percent of undergraduates had eligibility for some support under MIT's formula.

"Statistically, the percentage of needy students is higher at MITthan at competitor institutions," Williams said.

This is because science and engineering attracts a less affluent population of first and second generation immigrants, Williams said.

Aid decisions will be unaffected

"Individual aid decisions are made independently of the student budget or tuition levels," Hudson said.

International students do not have interest subsidies on their loans. "Since self-help will not increase, international students will benefit by seeing the loan portion in their packages held constant." Hudson said.

"Students and parents make a decision to attend or not based on lots of different factors. We hope that our financial aid policies do enable all admitted students to attend if they elect to do so," Hudson said.