Columbia, MIT announce aid reforms

In the wake of similar reforms at Ivy League schools and Stanford University, Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology unveiled new financial-aid programs earlier this month. Princeton University is the only remaining Ivy League school not to announce an aid initiative in the recent wave of financial aid reforms.

With their new policies, both schools addressed the burden of tuition costs and student loans for low- and middle-income families — a common theme during the recent wave of aid reforms. Columbia will no longer expect families making under $60,000 per year to contribute to tuition, room and board, while MIT will cover tuition for families earning under $75,000.

MIT will also eliminate the need for student loans for students in the under-$75,000 bracket. Columbia, on the other hand, has vowed to replace need-based loans with grants for all new and continuing students eligible for financial aid in Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

In addition, MIT will no longer take home equity into consideration in aid calculations for families earning less than $100,000.

At Columbia, the expected contribution to tuition and other costs for families making between $60,000 and $100,000 will be reduced — which Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger said will promote the school’s mission to increase diversity, according to the university’s news release.

“Columbia has a record of attracting among the most socioeconomically diverse undergraduate student populations among our peer institutions through our commitment to need-blind admissions,” Bollinger said in the release. “We are both proud of that diversity and determined to maintain it by expanding aid to the extent our resources allow.”

Columbia’s announcement follows on the heels of months of urging from Columbia undergraduates, who watched six other Ivy League schools make financial-aid announcements one after another. The student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, printed articles week after week questioning whether Columbia would be able to come up with enough money to match the aid offers of its Ivy League counterparts.

Columbia’s endowment is $5.94 billion and MIT’s is nearly $10 billion, compared to Yale’s endowment of $22.5 billion and Harvard’s of $34.9 billion.

MIT will increase its annual financial-aid budget to $74 million, according to the school’s news release. Columbia did not make public the amount of its new aid budget.

Student Financial Services Director Caesar Storlazzi commended the two schools for their new aid programs but maintained that Yale’s aid offer remains ahead of the competition. He added that Yale’s and Columbia’s initiatives are “very close” but that Yale now offers steeper discounts in parental contributions for middle-income families.

Storlazzi declined to speculate on whether Princeton would make an announcement in the next few months, but suggested that if they were to do so, it would be before the April 1 decision letters are mailed.

Harvard University’s aid plan, announced in December, increased its financial-aid budget to $120 million, from $98 million. In January, Yale unveiled an aid initiative that will increase its aid budget for next year to $86 million, an increase of nearly 40 percent.

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