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Lower income students' enrollment is constant

By Michael J. Garrison

First in a series examining MIT's budget and endowment.

"The middle class is not disappearing" from MIT's student body, according to President Paul E. Gray '54.

Fractions of MIT students from each of the four economic quartiles of family income have been stable. The ratio of MIT cost to family income has also remained constant, Gray continued.

Student Financial Aid Office (SFAO) statistics indicate little change in each of the economic categories, except for a rise in the percentage of students in the highest quartile who requested financial aid in 1982-84, said Leonard V. Gallagher '54, director of financial aid. "We are still trying to analyze the action in the ... quartile [over] the last three years," he added.

The increase in highest quartile students corresponded to a decrease in the percentage of students from "middle income" families who sought aid, according to the SFAO statistics.

The statistics also indicated that 16.1 percent of the freshmen entering the Institute in 1971 came from households with an income of less than $7980. Sixteen percent of MIT freshmen in 1984 came from households with annual incomes under $18,707.

The figures for the lowest quartile have remained relatively stable over the past 13 years, varying from a high of 17.9 percent in 1981 to a low of 12.9 percent in 1973, Gallagher added.

Costs concern administration

Of the $74 million it cost for all undergraduates to attend MIT this year, "we measured a need for almost $27 million," Gallagher said. "Most [of that need] slides in from outside."

Gray expressed doubts on whether the percentage of tuition revenue returned as financial aid can continue to grow.

Tuition income goes directly into unrestricted funds. MIT is spending $6.5 million from those funds on financial aid, according to the SFAO. The office also administers a $36 million scholarship endowment.

Gray warned against extrapolating past successes into the future. "I worry about what happens when ... [students] can't raise that much self-help," he added. MIT's self-help level, $4900 for next year, is approximately 12 to 13 percent higher than that of comparable universities.

Gallagher said he is "not as concerned as [Gray] is." It is possible to "measure the goodness or badness of a self-help level in many ways," he said, citing the following criteria:

O+ Is the self-help level so high that juniors in high school do not apply to the school?

O+ Does the self-help level deter freshmen from entering MIT?

O+ Will students be forced to sell out to big corporations -REMchoose lucrative careers because they are concerned about repaying their self-help debt?

O+ Must a student work 20 to 25 hours per week because of the self-help level?

O+ Is a senior's accumulated debt enough to prohibit continuing in graduate school?

O+ Will alumni have difficulties repaying their debts?

O+ Does MIT's self-help level look unreasonable compared to other schools' self-help levels?

"I am convinced [the self-help level] is not too high on every measure except the first one," Gallagher said. He could not be sure whether high school juniors were discouraged from applying because that factor could not be measured, he added.

"and I don't know about it [whether high school juniors do not apply] because" it can not be measured.

"In the cynic's view [what should go in here to explain this quote, mat?cj] is a tax on the well-to-do to pay for the less-well-to-do," Gray said, adding this is 15 percent of gross undergraduate tuition revenueI don't understand this clause either.. "That number can not get to be 25-30 percent," he said.