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Self-Help Amount May Change Hockfield Will Consider Aid Proposals at Corporation Meeting

By Marissa Vogt

President Hockfield is expected to discuss possible changes to the self-help portion of financial aid awards with members of the MIT Corporation at next Friday’s quarterly meeting.

Senior Advisor to the President Kirk D. Kolenbrander said he expects that Hockfield will be ready to make a decision following the meeting. Hockfield was unavailable for comment.

All of the proposals currently under consideration would lower the amount of self-help, said Director of Financial Aid Daniel Barkowitz. Self-help is the amount students who receive financial aid are expected to contribute through loans or work during the academic year.

Barkowitz said that a proposal made in December to lower the amount of self help from $5,500 to $4,500 is no longer being considered. That proposal had been presented at a meeting of the Academic Council in December by then-Dean for Undergraduate Education Robert P. Redwine.

Barkowitz declined to give further details about the current proposals and how they would reduce self-help.

The self-help amount has decreased over the past decade from its peak of $8,600 in the 1997–1998 academic year to the current $5,500. Ultimately, Redwine said, the goal is to reduce the self-help amount to $2,500.

A $1,000 fixed reduction in self-help, such as the one Redwine proposed in December as the chair of the enrollment management group, would cost MIT $2.3 million, he said, calling it a “non-trivial decision.” Under Redwine’s proposal, the $1,000 taken from self-help would have been added to the MIT grant the student receives.

Kolenbrander said that the protocol for financial aid changes involves the president considering the proposal “in the context of institutional needs” by balancing the benefits against other interests for the budget.

For the 2004–2005 school year, 56 percent of undergraduates received a grant from MIT as part of their financial aid packages. According to Barkowitz, everyone who receives a grant as part of their financial aid package from MIT would be affected by changes to self-help amount.

Barkowitz said that total financial aid awarded to undergraduates was $80 million for the 2004–2005 academic year, the most recent for which official statistics are available. The number includes loans, outside scholarships, MIT grants, and federal work study. The money coming from MIT, including grants, loans, and work study, amounted to $55.3 million, with about $50 million in grants alone. Barkowitz said it is likely that even more aid was awarded for the current academic year.

Redwine said that the motivation for reducing the amount of self-help is to produce a financial aid package that will encourage students “to come to MIT and succeed.” MIT competes for students with Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, all of which “tend to have lower self-help levels,” he said. Dean of Admissions Marilee Jones could not be reached for comment.

MIT has a higher percentage than its competitors of students who are the first in their family to go to college, Redwine said, and though this is something “we should be proud of,” it also means that for some students, the financial burden of tuition is especially heavy.