Schmill, Hicks Discuss MIT’s Image, Changes To Financial Aid at UA

Dean of Admissions Stuart Schmill ’86 and Executive Director of Student Financial Services Elizabeth M. Hicks spoke about the future of MIT admissions and financial aid at an open Undergraduate Association meeting yesterday evening.

The discussion focused on MIT’s admissions selection criteria and recent changes to MIT’s financial aid policy.

Schmill began the meeting by saying that, despite recent events, “MIT’s image in the world is quite strong.” He said that the goal of MIT admissions is to admit students “who appreciate science and technology and want to somehow use it in their lives” to change the world.

Schmill also outlined challenges facing the admissions department. According to Schmill, many other schools “are recognizing the value of science and engineering” and are increasingly trying to recruit the same students recruited by MIT.

Another challenge is maintaining the “ability to attract students from all backgrounds.” Specifically, “low-income students are nationally taking up a smaller share of college seats,” so MIT will have to work harder to recruit those students.

Hicks discussed her work in finding “ways to reduce pressure on parents and … students,” including reducing the amount student self-help contributions. Currently $2,850 is requested from students with family incomes below $75,000, and $4,750 is requested from students with family income above $75,000.

According to Hicks, some alumni who financed their own educations, like as World War II veterans, feel that students should have to pay some for their educations. She said that self-help contributions will likely remain a part of financial aid, but added “students’ time here is a time to explore … not to have 3 jobs.”

Students also asked Schmill about plans to increase class size, which is currently around 1000 students per class. The main obstacle to increasing class size, said Schmill, is on campus housing; there will be more options once the new W1 is ready. He said that the increase to class size would be “on the order of 10 percent,” or about 100 students.

Schmill was asked about whether or not he would continue Jones’s push to recruit a more well-rounded student body, including those interested in areas beyond science and technology.

In 2001, Marilee Jones published an article in the MIT Faculty Newsletter about the incoming generation of college students, who she called the “Millennials.” In the article, she wrote that these incoming students are “‘diverse busy’, spreading their energies over many activities, not the ‘focused’ busy of the classic Techie, who eats, sleeps, and dreams their passion.” She argued that MIT should change to better educate the new generation of students.

Schmill said that diversity in interests is “great” and “students’ educations benefit” from admitting those students. However, he said “it’s important that any student we admit here has an appreciation for science and technology and wants to use it in some fashion,” even if they want to study something else.

“I don’t see it as broadening [the types of people we admit]” Schmill said. “I don’t think we need to change what we’re doing.”