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What the settlement means

(Stanley G. Hudson, director of Student Financial Aid at MIT, explains the major implications of the settlement for MIT.)

Under the terms of the antitrust settlement, MIT's financial aid office will be able to join with other schools to set common standards in the formula that will be used for determining eligibility for institutional financial aid.

Schools will also be able to establish guidelines for the common treatment of special circumstances not covered by the formula. These "need analysis standards" will provide consistency in the treatment of income and assets for applicants admitted to more than one participating school. Additionally, the participating schools may agree to provide institutional financial aid only on the basis of need and to prohibit the awarding of institutional merit-based financial aid beyond need. This commitment by participating schools will assure that institutional aid resources will be targeted to needy students only.

The sharing of financial aid information among schools has been an important part of the process of assuring consistency and reliability of aid awards. Under the agreement, schools that make admissions decisions without reference to students' abilities to pay and that meet the full need of financial aid applicants may share information on prospective students through an independent data processing contractor. The information provided will help schools determine where differences in analysis exist. Schools will then be free to re-visit their own analysis or to work with the applicant and family to discuss the cause of these discrepancies before a financial aid award is made. We anticipate that this process will help to eliminate the wide variances in aid awards which have occurred over the last few years when aid offices have been barred from sharing information.

The agreement permits a review of final award data that will help inform schools' continued discussions on need analysis policies and practices. This analysis of aid variances among schools will be available in our discussions on need analysis standards. We anticipate that these data will help to focus the discussions on areas where schools' policies seem to diverge from standard practices.

A version of this article appeared in the January 5, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 18).

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