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28 college presidents including Vest commit to need-based aid

President Charles M. Vest and the presidents of 27 other leading colleges and universities have reaffirmed their schools' commitment to need-based financial aid.

The group, chaired by Cornell University President Hunter B. Rawlings III, has developed "A Consensus Approach to Need Analysis" for financial aid officials. Besides MIT and Cornell, the group includes Yale University, Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Wellesley College, Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania.

"We believe that our institutions should compete for students on the basis of the nature and quality of our educational programs, but within a clearly understood and fairly applied system of financial aid," Vest said. "We are committed to admitting students on the basis of their qualities, accomplishments and promise, and also to allocating our financial aid dollars on the basis of the students and their families' ability to pay for part of the cost of education."

The principles endorsed by the 28 presidents include:

  • Protection for moderate-income families whose homes have increased dramatically in value.
  • Consideration of the financial status of two parents or stepparents rather than three or four for the children of divorced or separated parents.
  • Allowances for parents not covered in retirement programs.
  • Contributions from tax-advantaged college savings accounts will not exceed the percentage parents are expected to contribute from other assets.

"The basic principles this group has adopted are consistent with MIT's long-standing commitment to need-blind admission and need-based allocation of financial aid," Vest said. "Nonetheless, the detailed work of forging a consensus methodology has further sharpened our understanding of the complexities of contemporary family finances. Where we are making changes in the details of our practices, they are in the families' favor.

"The most immediate benefit will be increased clarity of our communications about financial aid. The subject has become far too arcane and confusing," Vest continued. "By adopting a consensus approach to need analysis, and more common terminology, we will assist families in understanding and comparing our institutions. Everyone benefits from a more transparent system. I further believe that this broad presidential commitment and attention will create pressure on all of us to continue to strengthen our financial aid programs."

Other schools whose presidents endorsed the principles are Amherst College, Boston College, Bowdoin College, Claremont McKenna College, Davidson College, Duke University, Emory University, Georgetown University, Haverford College, Macalester College, Middlebury College, Northwestern University, Notre Dame University, Pomona College, Rice University, Swarthmore College, Vanderbilt University, Wake Forest University, Wesleyan University and Williams College.

"I hope that in due course some additional schools will join our ranks, but I believe that we have a very substantive and influential group at this time," Vest said.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on July 18, 2001.

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