Despite some last-second nail-biting, the University will have its seventh consecutive balanced budget in 2004, Yale Provost Susan Hockfield said Monday.

The budget includes a “reasonable” increase in faculty salaries, need-blind financial aid and a comparatively modest 4.6 percent increase in tuition, Hockfield said. Although Hockfield said not all incremental funding requests could be fulfilled, the budget meets the University’s “core priorities.” But despite relief that this year’s budget cycle ended with a balanced budget, University administrators said the going could get tougher in the future.

Deputy Provost Charles Long said the provost’s office is already thinking about the challenges facing the fiscal year 2005 budget.

The guidelines for every unit in the University are “a little more stringent,” Hockfield said.

“There’s no question that things are tighter,” Hockfield said.

Considering the poor economy, endowment income and grants and contracts income have been good compared to those at other universities, Long said. But the recession and smaller endowment returns are still bad news for the budget.

Long said expenses cannot continue to grow at the pace they followed during the late 1990s because of lower University income, but he said that does not mean budgets will necessarily be cut.

“There’s no question that the expenses cannot continue to grow as fast,” Long said. “That doesn’t mean that anyone’s budget will be smaller.”

History Department chairman Jon Butler said the University has been good in relaying concerns to administrators and has made it clear that the economy has necessitated a much tighter budget. He said this is “regrettably” not the time to ask the Provost’s office for extra funding.

“[But] I think the History Department is being well-treated and will very much get what it needs,” Butler said. “Those are contradictory things, but I think it’s true.”

Former provost Alison Richard addressed the economy’s effect on the budget last fall with department heads.

Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology chairman Michael Snyder said the meetings were “reasonable” and seemed to show that Yale is in better shape than many of its counterparts.

Snyder said he had not really noticed budget-tightening, partly because his department is not currently in the process of hiring faculty. The History Department, on the other hand, has hired three new faculty members for the coming year.

Long said despite the economic slowdown, the University has had an “incredible” season in faculty hires.

“I weep when I think of the budget, but it’s been a phenomenal year,” Long said.

Hockfield pointed out that Yale has not announced budget troubles on the caliber of some other elite universities that announced measures to curb spending earlier this year.

Harvard University announced it would tighten hiring policies earlier this year. Dartmouth College, Brown University and Columbia University have all predicted budget cuts.

Yale’s endowment return of 0.7 percent last year caused the nation’s second-largest endowment to fall in value from $10.7 billion to $10.5 billion. Poor economic circumstances were reflected in the return, which paled in comparison to the University’s 41 percent return in the 2000 fiscal year at the height of the economic boom.

Last year’s $1.54 billion operating budget — with a $361 million capital budget — was the largest in University history.