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MIT Faces Challenges, Says Corporation Chairman

When John Reed ’61, SM ’65, chairman of the MIT Corporation, reported on the Institute at a recent alumni gathering in Northern California, he noted the positives—and the challenges.

“We continue to get great students and we have great faculty, and we would have to say that the basic mission of the school is being fulfilled quite well,” he said. “The two problems we have are our buildings are getting old and the model of how American research universities function is broken.”

As chairman, Reed examines the hard realities of running a major enterprise with expectations of excellence. And as the former chairman of Citigroup and the New York Stock Exchange, he brings a sharp business perspective to his role. Clearly, if MIT were a business, it would be losing money on its primary products—education and research. Tuition covers only about 28 percent of educational costs, and outside funding for research conducted on campus covers some 80 percent of costs.

“Obviously we are not going to make money on tuition or research,” Reed said. “The question is, can we earn enough money on the endowment or raise enough money to keep the institution on the path we want to be on?”

MITx, the Institute’s new online-learning experiment, is a response to another major challenge—the Internet. What MIT learns from MITx will improve the campus learning experience, he believes, because “it is going to force us to make residential learning even better than it is today.”

Hear Reed’s talk: alum.mit.edu/pages/sliceofmit/2012/02/29/corporation-chairman.

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