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Financial aid meal allowance set for 2011-2012

The 2012 tuition, fees and financial aid budget announced by MIT last month includes a modest increase to the meal allowance from $4,350 to $4,500. With this increase, the meal allowance matches the projected price of the full 19-meal plan.

"We recognize that the change in the meal plan design is a significant one for our students. While we are confident that the new approach will offer substantial benefits in terms of nutrition, health and flexibility for those with special diets, we are pleased that the new meal allowance will take into consideration the financial resources to support their participation," said Richard Berlin, director of Dining Services.

The student expense budget used to determine a student's financial aid package is set annually by Student Financial Services (SFS) and includes actual tuition and mandatory fees and allowances toward housing, meals, books, supplies, and personal and travel expenses. The allowances are based on students' historical spending patterns, peer benchmarking and alignment with rules concerning federal student financial assistance.

The meal allowance is set at a dollar amount that will enable students to cover reasonable dining costs during the year; some students may spend more than the allowance, while some may spend less, but the allowance serves as a standard for determining financial aid packages.

Student Financial Services does not change a student's budget based on lifestyle preferences. For the 2011-2012 academic year SFS will use the $4,500 meal allowance for students who live on campus in dining dorms or cook-for-yourself communities, as well as those who live off-campus in their own apartments or in a fraternity, sorority or independent living group (FSILGs).

The new House Dining program will offer breakfast and dinner during weekdays and brunch and dinner on weekends in all four dining halls; it will also offer lunch on weekdays in Maseeh Hall's Howard Dining Hall. In addition, it will include new features requested by students and parents, such as seven-day per week operations in all four houses, all-you-care-to-eat service, and later hours to accommodate athletes and other students. Costs for the program, which includes fall and spring semesters but not IAP, range from $2,500 for the 7-meal-per-week transitional plan to $4,500 for the full 19-meal plan.

"Our goal is to ensure that any student who wants to eat all of their meals on campus has a financial aid package that allows him or her to do so," said Betsy Hicks, executive director of Student Financial Services. "We want to make it possible for all students — both those on the meal plan and in cook-for-yourself residences — to make healthy eating choices."

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