Tuition Increase Set; New UROP Funding Program Announced

Tuition will increase by 4.1 percent to $34,986 and a total of $68 million will be allocated for financial aid, an increase of $7 million, for the 2007–2008 school year. Additionally, $400,000 of Institute funds have been budgeted for a new program offering guaranteed direct funding for the UROP program to help financial aid students fulfill their "self-help offer" costs in their financial aid packages, MIT announced last week.

Along with the increase in tuition, the room and board costs used to gauge a student's financial need will also rise slightly, from $5,600 to $6,000 for room costs and $4,350 to $4,400 for board costs, according to Elizabeth M. Hicks, executive director of Student Financial Services. A financial aid student's "self-help offer" will be reduced from $5,500 to $5,250. The additional $7 million secured from Institute funds will be used to compensate for the reduction of students' contributions to their financial aid packages.

Self-help is the fixed amount financially aided students are expected to contribute through loans or work during the academic year.

According to Hicks, the 11.7 percent increase in financial aid is relatively high compared to past years of 8–9 percent. For the past 10 years, self-help prices for students "have been decreasing because our financial aid increases have been outdoing the tuition rises," Hicks said. "That's just our commitment. It's a nice, healthy trend." The self-help amount has decreased over the past decade from its peak of $8,600 in the 1997–1998 academic year to the current $5,500.

On top of the $68 million for 2007–2008 financial aid, an extra $400,000 of the Institute funds has been budgeted for the new UROP direct funding to help students meet their financial needs. According to Kirk D. Kolenbrander, vice president for Institute affairs and secretary of the MIT Corporation, the new UROP funding program is part of President Susan Hockfield's decision to continually increase student financial aid and decrease the self-help costs.

"It is so important that MIT continues offering need-blind admissions and need-based financial aid," Kolenbrander said. "It is an absolute hallmark of MIT."

Michael Bergren, assistant dean for academic and research initiatives, stated that this new funding option will allow flexibility in dispersing direct funding among all disciplines and faculty. It will also provide an alternate option for students to fulfill their "self-help offer" costs in their financial aid packages.

"It brings more resources to the UROP program, but it also provides a creative way for scholarship students to meet self-help requirements that didn't exist before," Bergren said. This year, the UROP office has awarded funding to approximately 70 percent of the direct funding applicants. Bergren said he expects an increase in this statistic with the new funding option.

Direct funding comes from the UROP office, while the other funding option, supervisor funding, comes from the laboratory and the principal investigator.

Although direct funding will be "guaranteed" for students on financial aid, this does not imply that the academic standards for UROP projects will be lowered by any means, Bergren said. According to Bergren, a sub-standard proposal from a financially eligible student can be rejected by the faculty, UROP coordinators, or the UROP office.

"We don't have any concerns that having this new option is going to tarnish the quality of the UROP projects," Bergren said. "We think people do UROP because they are interested and passionate about their research."

Since the new funding program is an addition to the existing direct UROP funding, students not on financial aid will still have the same direct funding opportunities as before. Additionally, this new program will only be available to students during the academic year; funding for summer UROPs must be through the existing direct funding system.

In contrast to MIT's increase in tuition, Princeton University announced in January that its will not increase tuition for the first time in 40 years, although their room and board will rise. According to Hicks, the costs of having a student attend each school rose about the same for both Princeton and MIT; however, Princeton has the largest endowment per student, rising above even Harvard University which has the largest total endowment.

"Our opinion is that that's great," Hicks said. "Most universities cannot afford not raising tuition because costs go up each year, but Princeton can with the largest endowment per student in the nation."