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THE $125 increase in the off-campus fee, which the Corporation approved last week, is based on the questionable argument of "implied subsidization." There are, the argument goes, certain house services -- the offices of House Masters and Senior Tutors, house libraries and common rooms, and the house athletic program--whose benefits students both on and off-campus share, but whose cost, in the past, has fallen exclusively on the students in the houses. Hence the "subsidization" of off-campus by on-campus students for common services, which the $125 raise will presumably remedy.
There is a certain logic to this argument. Certainly, the house offices are essential for all students, and all students, whether on or off-campus should share their costs. But just as obvious is the fact that many of the students who move off-campus do so because they are disenchanted with life in the houses and do not want to study in house libraries and play in house sports. Having granted a student permission to live outside of the house system, it is unfair to make him pay for the very house services from which he has clearly dissociated himself.
Master Gill, whose Mather House subcommittee recommended the fee increase in January, said last week that "there should be no attempt to use fees to influence the pattern of resident and non-resident living." But there is a real danger that the fee increase will do just this.
In the first place, whatever the motives behind the fee increase, its effect is to make off-campus living more expensive than in the past--an effect which an economist like Gill cannot disregard.
Second, and worse, the burden will fall most heavily on scholarship students. The Financial Aid Office has announced that scholarships to students off-campus will increase by $70 to match the rise to scholarship students living on-campus and to cover general increases in living costs. But, despite the scholarship increase, it will be $55 more expensive for a scholarship student to live off-campus than in the past--and this is precisely the kind of "influence" on patterns of residency that Gill has denied and that the College should try to avoid.
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