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Institute Considers Self-Help Changes

By Naveen Sunkavally

A number of MIT's peer institutions have announced measures to decrease the financial burden on their students. This Friday, the MIT Corporation will respond to these changes by deciding the size of the self-help contribution that MIT students will pay next year. It will also decide the tuition level for next year.

The issue of self-help is of vital importance to the Institute. Even before other universities approved plans to decrease self-help, "we recognized that self-help was getting too high," said Stanley G. Hudson, director of student financial aid.

Hudson said that MIT "would be completely out of the ballpark" compared to other institutions if it continues along its current path of self-help increases. He added that although MIT students have the lowest default rate on loans in the country, that fact might change as the self-help amount increases.

Hudson said the proposed changes in self-help levels range from a substantial decrease to an increase 2 percent greater than the percentage increase in tuition. Marilee Jones, the dean of admissions and a member of the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid said that the CUAFA met with the Academic Council and recommended a decrease in self-help. They also proposed only a modest increase in tuition, "to keep some leverage against our competition this year," she said.

Peer institutions decrease self-help

Princeton University, Yale University, and Stanford University have all announced specific measures within the last two months to decrease self-help levels.

Princeton released its new financial aid budget late in January. It has replaced student loans with scholarship aid for families making less than $40,000, removed or reduced the contribution of home equity to financial aid calculations, and increased its scholarship budget for international students.

Princeton also announced a 3.7 percent increase in tuition for the coming year, the lowest percentage increase there in thirty years.

At Yale, where 42 percent of the students receive financial aid, administrators announced a plan two weeks after Princeton did. Most significantly, Yale has increased the allowance of protected assets considered for financial aid, which include home equity, to $150,000.

Tuition at Yale will rise by 2.9 percent next year, its lowest percentage increase in 30 years also. Yale's aid to international students will rise by 50 percent.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Stanford also has adopted some measures. Stanford will no longer count the full value of the family home in considering financial aid, replacing that value with one equal to three times a family's income. The university will also no longer consider outside scholarships in determining self-help levels.

Despite the pressure applied by other peer institutions, it is unclear whether MIT can afford to decrease or keep fixed self-help levels.

Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Harold Abelson PhD '73, chair of the CUAFA, said that "MIT has a lot more budget constraints" than other institutions. "We would like to keep self-help fixed but I don't know if we can," he said.

Hudson said that support of graduate student research and changes in federal rules regarding research will be one important consideration regarding self-help levels.

Jones did not know how MIT's yield for next year would be affected by the moves of other colleges. She said that MIT does not typically lose many students to Princeton, but that the cumulative effect of Princeton's changes on other colleges would be of concern.

"Princeton started this after the application deadline, and we don't know how other colleges will respond this year," Jones said.

"What you can anticipate as a likely outcome is a serious consideration of the size of self-help and serious consideration of the aggressive moves of Princeton and Yale," Hudson said.