MIT responds to inquiry on endowment, tuition

Natasha Plotkin

Natasha Plotkin
MIT Tech

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (U-WIRE) – MIT is compiling data to respond to the Senate Finance Committee’s request for information about the school’s endowment, financial aid, and tuition rates.

The committee sent this request to MIT and 135 other universities in the country with endowments over $500 million on Jan. 24, in light of increasing concerns regarding hikes in tuition and unprecedented endowment growth.

The request indicates that the Senate plans to more closely monitor university spending policies. Iowa Senator Charles Grassley (R), ranking member of the committee, described the purpose of the request in a Finance Committee press release: “We’re giving well-funded colleges a chance to describe what they’re doing to help students.

“More information will help Congress make informed decisions about a potential pay-out requirement and allow universities to show what they can accomplish on their own initiative,” he said.

MIT Vice President and General Counsel R. Gregory Morgan, who was unavailable for comment, is coordinating the Institute’s effort to provide a response within 30 days, as the committee requested.

The MIT administration has expressed concern at the possibility of increased government monitoring or control over tuition rates.

The Senate press release mentions that college tuition is rising faster than inflation, and that college endowments are exempt from a requirement that private foundations pay out five percent of their assets each year.

President Susan Hockfield said at a February 20 faculty meeting that, in its request, Congress is being “over-simplistic” about how schools manage their endowments. She said that MIT has “a strong position on financial aid,” by, among other examples, supporting a need-blind admissions policy and providing 62 percent of students internal need-based scholarships.

She said that MIT cannot be compared with similarly ranked universities such as Harvard University and Yale University because MIT has a much higher percentage of students studying science and engineering, which are, in general, more costly than study in the humanities. She also noted that the financial backgrounds of MIT students are different than those of students at similarly ranked schools.

MIT cannot match Harvard and Yale’s recent financial aid increases for middle income families without “eroding support” for lower income families.

She told the faculty that MIT will make a public statement on financial aid in early March but that they should not expect any sweeping changes in financial aid, such as those announced by Harvard, Yale, and, most recently, Stanford University.