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EECS Aids MEng Students With Interest-Free Loans

By S. Roopom Banerjee
Staff Reporter

The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science will provide limited financial aid to some fifth-year Master of Engineering students this fall, according to Ford Professor of Engineering William M. Siebert ScD '46.

The aid will consist of department subsidization of interest on MIT loans taken by MEng students, Siebert said. The plan, dubbed the "The Great Educator Award Program," is unique to the MEng program.

The EECS department started offering the Master of Engineering program during the 199293 academic year. The Department has always had a master's program, but the MEng program is unique in that it allows undergraduates to apply for the fifth year during the spring term of their junior year. This fall will be the first term that includes fifth-year MEng students.

The cost of staying a fifth year for the MEng program is about $28,000, according to current statistics by Director of Student Financial Aid Stanley G. Hudson.

Limited aid sources for students

Graduate students can receive financial aid from different sources, but do not have the option for interest-free loans, Hudson said. Though the coverage of an MIT loan ideally covers the total amount of a graduate student education, most graduate students who apply to the Financial Aid Office receive an average of $9,000 per year.

MEng students have the option of interest-free loans, but only qualify for MIT loans if their government loans do not completely cover their eligible need, Hudson said.

"The department option is to fund or subsidize any student who receives an MIT loan," he said. "Any student looking for MIT loan support must qualify for a federal loan first, and if they have any eligibility left after government subsidy, then the department will pay the accrued interest on the MIT loan while the student is in school." Because government loans are already subsidized, the EECS department will not pay interest charges on federal loans.

Most students in the MEng program recognize the lack of available financial aid for their fifth year.

"I will rely heavily on my parents, but my main source will be investing heavily in the state lottery," said Geoffrey R. Gustafson '95. "But hopefully I will be able to TA some class in Course VI. And I do not mind taking out a low or no-interest loan to pay for the difference."

Some students hope to find an internship with a company that pays for their fifth-year costs.

"If I get into a company that pays for the fifth-year tuition, that would be best," said Andrew Kao '96. "My other choices are loans or fellowships. Most likely, if I can't find a company to pay for the fifth year, I will have to cover [the costs] on my own."

Plan is unique to MEng

The plan to cover the interest on loans for fifth-year students is specific to the MEng program. No other department at the Institute currently sponsors interest on loans, Siebert said. Students who intend to pursue degrees past the MEng, such as a PhD, will not receive department financial support under the proposed policy.

The EECS department's plan will cover accrued interest charges for a maximum of three terms past undergraduate education. This means that students who take the year off between the fourth year and the final year are no longer eligible for this financial plan, Siebert said.

About half of the 61 students in the EECS master's program this year received some financial support from the department, said Anne Hunter, administrator of Course VI undergraduate and professional programs.

However, an estimated 200 students will be admitted into the MEng program next fall, so "the EECS department will have to do some fundraising to subsidize the interest charges on loans taken out by next year's students," Siebert said.

This year the EECS department hopes to increase its enrollment with more lenient admission criteria. "The five-year bachelor's/master's degree program has easy admission to the MEng only," Hunter said, "so the general cutoff for applicants is about a [GPA of] 4.0."

"We basically feel that students in industry need the master's degree; we make it easy for them to stay for a master's degree," Hunter said.

Other options for aid

MEng students are eligible for the same forms of financial help as students in combined undergraduate and graduate programs, but cannot apply directly to MIT for loans before receiving federal help, Hudson said. Students who are ineligible for MIT loans or financial aid have to support themselves through parental or personal efforts, he said.

"Fifth-year students are entitled to the same personal aid as graduate students - fellowships, research assistant and teaching assistant positions," Hunter said. "Undergraduate financial aid does not include stipend and tuition. Graduate students receive full tuition and a stipend from most supervisors," she explained.

Prospective MEng students interested in MIT loans must become eligible through the Office of Financial Aid, Hunter said.