MIT to be tuition-free for nearly a third of students

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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced yesterday a far-reaching financial aid program that will make it possible for nearly a third of MIT undergraduate students to have their tuition charges completely covered.

According to the program, which will take effect in the 2008-2009 academic year, MIT will be tuition-free for families earning less than US $75,000 a year. MIT will also provide grants to those students to cover expenses beyond tuition, helping them graduate free from loan debts.

The MIT move follows a major financial aid plan announced by Harvard late last year. It follows also a request by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee for detailed tuition, financial aid, and endowment information from the nationâ''s 136 wealthiest universities. (Here is MIT's response to the Senate request.)

The MIT initiative will increase the institute's financial aid budget to $74 million. Other details of the program (from the press release):

  • Families earning less than $75,000 a year will have all tuition covered. For parents with total annual income below $75,000 and typical assets, MIT will ensure that all tuition charges are covered with an MIT scholarship, federal and state grants, and/or outside scholarship funds. Nearly 30 percent of MIT students fall into this tuition-free category.

  • For families earning less than $75,000 a year, MIT will eliminate the student loan expectation. MIT will no longer expect students from families with total annual income below $75,000 and typical assets to take out loans to cover expenses beyond tuition. Under this provision, for example, students in this income group who participate in MIT's paid Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) each semester would be able to graduate debt-free.

  • For families earning less than $100,000, MIT will eliminate home equity in determining their need. In determining the ability to pay for college, MIT will no longer consider home equity for families with total annual income below $100,000 and typical assets. On average, this will reduce parental contributions by $1,600. For families who rent, rather than own a home, MIT will provide a comparable reduction in the expected parental contribution.

  • MIT will reduce student work-study requirements for all financial aid recipients. During the past decade, MIT has steadily lowered the amount it expects students to provide through term-time work. MIT will take a further step in this direction by reducing the work-study expectation for all financial aid recipients by an additional 10 percent.
  • PS: The good news was accompanied by this not-so-good news: "Tuition and fees for the upcoming academic year will increase 4 percent to $36,390." MIT claims that "this figure represents less than half of what it costs MIT to educate an undergraduate," and that the Institute is "increasing funds available for financial aid this year at a far greater rate than the rise in tuition." But then again, the question is: And how fast is MIT's $10 billion endowment growing?

    PPS: On a related note, speaking of tuition-free engineering colleges in the Boston area, let's not forget about the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, in Needham, Mass., about which I wrote a long feature titled "The Olin Experiment" and a follow-up blog post. I've been accused of having a bit of a crush on Olin, and I admit, I do admire this great little school. :)

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