MIT Financial Aid

I almost hooted out loud when I saw the email sent out to MIT Alumni/ae: “ MIT to be tuition-free for families earning less than $75,000 a year.” I’m generally proud of being an MIT alum, but not terribly passionate about it. Still, there are two rather important facilities that I was the beneficiary of, and think were important educational institutions. The first was the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), to which I’m proud that my class dedicated its class fund. The second was the commitment (at the time) to need-based financial aid.

I can’t point at any particular figures, but in the 18 years since I learned of my financial aid packages, it has felt like the overall commitment to financial aid has diminished, not only at MIT, but across America. I felt as though need-based financial aid made the insane tuition prices in America “work”: the rich and students from abroad could subsidize the poorer students. It’s something that I felt the English introduction of tuition fees (yet another instance of imperfect aping of the American system) missed was the need for a smoother spread of grants for students.

Back to the announcement, it’s interesting, and an impressive headline, but what made MIT’s financial aid great back in the day was their calculations of living expenses included in the package. The price was much more than tuition, and MIT recognised that. There are some hints of that in the clauses, “For families earning less than $75,000 a year, MIT will eliminate the student loan expectation,” and “MIT will reduce student work-study requirements for all financial aid recipients,” so I’m optimistic that this really is as meaningful as it appears on the surface.

I hope other institutions and people who can change things take notice. I feel like the need-based financial aid gate swung shut shortly behind me. Re-democritizing education is absolutely essential for the future of America.