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Reconsidering Financial Aid

Over the course of the last year, many top educational institutions, including Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, and Yale Universities, have restructured their systems of financial aid and payment in an attempt to make higher education more affordable and also to gain an advantage over their peer institutions.

Most recently, Harvard announced last week a 20 percent increase in undergraduate assistance, including a $2000-per-student increase in funding for all students receiving financial aid, regardless of their financial backgrounds. In addition, and perhaps more significantly, Harvard is also now allowing its students to keep all their outside scholarships for themselves, rather than requiring students to use their scholarships to offset whatever financial aid packages they receive.

MIT does not have Harvard's gigantic $13 billion endowment, the largest in the world. However, to remain competitive, and especially in light of the recent changes other universities have made, The Tech believes that MIT must seriously consider methods to alleviate the financial burdens on its students.

The Institute did adopt some changes in the spring. It cut the minimum self-help level, the amount of money students are expected to pay through work, loans, or savings, by $1000, and increased scholarship grants by 14 percent.

However, these changes are not enough. The changes still do not make MIT's financial aid packages competitive with those of the many peer institutions that have vastly restructured their systems. Most notably, Princeton has removed or reduced the contribution of home equity to financial aid calculations, and Stanford has removed outside scholarships from financial aid consideration.

As Harvard and Stanford have done, MITshould at least allow students to keep their own scholarships, rather than using them to offset the financial aid they receive. It is ludicrous that students should be penalized with lower financial aid because they obtain outside scholarships. What incentive do students have in the first place for trying to obtain outside scholarships if they know beforehand that MITwill take away a bulk of those scholarships in calculating financial aid? Students can just avoid getting any scholarships and then receive a better financial aid package. Outside scholarships, which students go out and obtain on their own, should stay with the students and should remain independent of all financial aid considerations.

Implementing such a step would go a long ways towards improving the financial aid situation at MIT. MIT probably does not have the resources to grant a $2000 windfall to every student, but by allowing students to keep their outside scholarships, the Institute can remain competitive with other schools. Moreover, implementing this change would be a definite step in the right direction on which MIT might base future changes.