Changes at Brown go beyond aid

When the Brown University Corporation endorsed a plan to institute need-blind admissions last week, it also promised numerous other changes in a broader plan to enrich and expand the university.

The majority of the changes bring Brown closer to the policies of most other Ivy League schools and likely will have little direct effect on Yale.

Aside from making the move to need-blind admissions for domestic students, the plan, titled the “Proposal for Academic Enrichment,” also will add 100 new faculty members and provide health coverage and other benefits for graduate students.

The changes will cost Brown an additional $36 million annually by fiscal year 2005, and the university plans to fund the new initiatives by changing its spending policies.

Brown’s announcement of increased benefits for its graduate students comes at a pivotal moment in the effort of some teaching assistants to unionize.

Currently, Brown graduate students are awaiting the result of a vote that could create a TA union. The National Labor Relations Board has impounded the ballots until it rules on Brown’s appeal of the decision allowing the TAs to unionize.

Although Brown spokesman Mark Nickel said that the decision to provide graduate students with health coverage is independent of the unionization campaign, it does follow a national trend.

In the fall, for example, Yale announced that it would increase next year’s stipends for its graduate students by $1,300 to $15,000.

Provost Alison Richard, Yale’s chief academic and financial officer, explained the increasing benefits for graduate students by pointing to increased competition between universities for a dwindling pool of applicants.

“We are investing in graduate students because we need to get the best graduate students,” Richard said.

Brown changed some of its budget policies to finance the increased graduate student support and other initiatives.

For example, Brown will spend a larger proportion of its endowment each year and will also take increased enrollment into account in the budget. In the past, the budget has underestimated Brown’s enrollment and therefore has not correctly estimated the amount of money students pay in tuition.

Brown now will assume it has 5,645 undergraduates, where as before it only accounted for 5,580, according to Brown’s administrative statistics.

“The university has been committed to improving the life and experience of undergrads at Brown,” Nickel said. “This year we have the opportunity to fund this initiative to make some progress, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Richard said Brown’s investment represents a “big bold investment.”

“It’s an injection of funds into the operating budget that gives them a cushion to develop these initiatives,” Richard said. “It’s a calculated risk.”

She added that Yale could consider similar steps with its budget, but said these steps never have been necessary.

Comments