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Need-Blind Admissions Not at Risk

By Eva Moy
Associate News Editor

While dozens of other universities are reducing costs by cutting back on financial aid, MIT does not expect to have to make major changes in its financial aid program anytime soon.

In fact, according to James J. Culliton, vice president for financial operations, MIT does not expect to make any of several types of drastic cuts -- such as cutting departments or sports teams -- that other universities have made recently.

"In terms of financial aid's position ... we're going to review and award as before," said Katherine M. Nolan, associate director of the Student Financial Aid Office. The self-help level may change, but "students will still be awarded full need," she added.

MIT made this decision despite the fact that the deficit will be slightly larger than last year, according to Culliton. MIT has projected relatively small deficits for the next three years, he said.

Michael C. Behnke, director of admissions, said that a task force on financial aid several years ago advised that MIT keep both need-blind admissions and moderate self-help levels. Every few years, the Institute investigates whether to retain need-blind admissions, he added.

"There are strains on us this year," Culliton said. "We're going to have to spend more of unrestricted money" for financial aid.

A change in policy would cause more stress on families, grants, and contracts, Culliton said, adding that MIT is trying to help students to make decisions based on schools rather than money. The financial needs of current students may also change, he added.

Other aid schemes

Some other universities have financial aid systems different from the one used by MIT, including "admit/deny" and "gapping," Behnke said.

Under the admit/deny plan, which Behnke called the "most ethical" alternative, students are admitted regardless of need, but the school does not necessarily meet their full need. Schools that employ gapping also admit students without consideration of their ability to pay, but provide different levels of financial aid.

While both of these methods are considered need-blind, a third takes the student's ability to pay into consideration during the admissions process.

MIT awards an average of $10,000 to each student, Behnke said. To do otherwise would be giving an "empty admissions offer," making the family feel guilty if they cannot afford to pay, he said. If the student comes to MIT, the family or the student may have to take other jobs, which could affect the student's education, he added.