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MIT may reduce class size

By Suzanne J. Sandor

Faced with unusually high undergraduate dormitory crowding, the MIT Admissions Office staff said it would probably aim for a smaller class size, as well as taking extra measures to counter declines in the number of women and minority students.

But MIT's guarantee of eight terms of on-campus housing to freshmen will not change, despite the crowding problem, according to Associate Dean for Student Affairs Robert A. Sherwood.

Last September, Sherwood speculated that removing the eight-term guarantee might become necessary because fewer spaces were available each year due to the tight off-campus housing market. Reducing the freshman class size would be preferable to ending the eight-term guarantee, President Paul E. Gray '54 said at that time.

The Admissions Office is likely to aim for 50 fewer freshmen in next year's entering class than it targeted for this year's freshman class, according to Director of Admissions Michael C. Behnke. But "this change may or may not happen," said Marilee Jones, assistant director of admissions.

The Academic Council, which sets the class size target each year, is concerned with the "really extraordinary crowding conditions in the dormitory system," according to its executive secretary, Kathryn Lombardi. The council intends to ensure on-campus housing for all freshmen, Lombardi said. "What we do not want freshmen to do is to come to MIT and go off to be by themselves in an apartment in the city," she explained.

The Admissions Office has accepted 421 of 1056 applicants to the Early Action admissions program, f which 35 percent were women and five and one-half percent minorities. Last year, 444 of 1074 early applicants were accepted. The office has released no statistics yet on regular applicants, whose deadline for submitting applications was Jan. 1.

MIT expects about 60 percent of admitted applicants to enroll, according to Jones. Most schools' "yield" is below 50 percent, she noted.

Few minorities attend;

Institute's image blamed

The number of black students attending MIT is decreasing, although the admission rates for other minorities are increasing, according to admissions director Behnke.

The Admissions Office increased its staff this year and has hired extra people to help increase the number of women and minority students at MIT, Jones said. "Our main plan is to do as much personal contact with applicants possible such as more mailngs and more direct information than before," she explained.

The Association of MIT Alumnae for the first time called a number of qualified female high school students to urge them to apply this year, Jones said. MIT hopes to increase its female enrollment by increasing the number of women applicants, Jones said. The admissions process is sex-blind.

Increasing the enrollment of minority students, particularly black students, is very difficult, Lombardi said.

"We are not alone in facing this issue of declining enrollmnt of black students," she said. "We want to take a look at the experiences of minority students here to see if we can get a better understanding about what is good and bad about MIT."

The number of black high schoo students taking the Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT) has ben decreasing for the past few years, Jones observed. "Nobody can explain it [this trend]," she said. "The number of black students is not going down, but the number of black students and minority students filling up community colleges is very high."

Jones cited MIT's image as a possible reason for the decline in women and minority students at MIT. "MIT has the reputation of being white, male, and cold," she said. "Among cultures in this country that may not respect coldness, MIT is not the place parents want their children to come for college."

Behnke is considering three questions about the admissions process itself:

O+ What exactly are MIT's admission criteria?

O+ Is MIT really getting the kind of students it wants to get?

O+ Are there ways we can change the admission process to get the kind of students MIT wants to get?

"In general, we are trying to raise the visibility of MIT around the country as a place where a student can come and get a very good education," Lombardi said. "MIT really has to do a much better job at communication of the full image of fields it offers.... MIT has a strong image, but it is still one of being extraordinarily difficult to get into."