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MIT staff blogger Dean Stu Schmill '86

Some reflections by Stu Schmill '86

Post decisions, a few thoughts.

It has been almost two weeks since we released our admissions decisions, and I wanted to take a moment to offer a few thoughts, and to thank you for being engaged with MIT and our admissions process.

This year has certainly been different from any we’ve seen before. The economic crisis has affected many, here at home and around the world. I know that many of you — students and parents — are concerned about the future: about jobs, about your ability to pay for college, and more generally about the economic, social, and environmental stability of the world.

For those who will come here to study, despite the difficult times — indeed, because of the difficult times — I hope you will come here with the realization that MIT offers the type of education that the leaders of our world need today, and the determination to take full advantage of it.

Through our commitment to a science and technology centered education integrated with a strong humanities program that offers appropriate context, you will leave MIT with the background that is essential for any leader who will influence and solve the problems that the world faces today. In fact, you don’t have to wait to graduate. As an undergraduate student, you can work with faculty on any number of important projects, such as the MIT Energy Initiative, the Center for Integrative Cancer Research, the Poverty Action Lab, D-lab, or the Laboratory for Financial Engineering. The analytic and human skills you will learn-by-doing here at MIT are the exact ones that will be central to solving the world’s most pressing problems.

Of course, along with the excitement of the opportunity of an MIT education, there remains the anxiety over how to pay for it. I know that for many families, it will be a stretch. To help, this year we have increased our financial aid budget by more than 10%, adding resources to help families across the economic spectrum. If circumstances change in your family at any time during your four years here, be assured that we will be flexible and responsive. If you have any questions about financial aid, I urge you to contact your financial aid officer.

At a press conference at the White House on Monday, MIT President Susan Hockfield joined President Barack Obama in calling for increased funding for clean energy research. In her speech, President Hockfield cited a report that showed that “every government dollar invested in energy R&D returns 40-fold to the economy — in energy efficiency, energy savings and in new technologies — a 40-to-1 return on investment.”

In the same way that President Hockfield argues that funding energy research is a smart investment, I think of an MIT education as a smart investment. Certainly our students do very well in the job market when they graduate, and will continue to do well even in this economy. The skills learned at MIT will continue to be valuable — in fact, will be of core value to the economy that will reward innovation. And, of course, the investment will continue to pay off not only for our students and graduates, but for society as well.

To those who will come to MIT to study, I look forward to seeing many of you at CPW in a few weeks. To those who will not come to MIT to study, I hope that you pursue an analytic, science-based education, which is so needed now, and I wish you well. I have no doubt that you will be among those who are the global leaders in the near future.

One thing that I am certain of is that no matter where you wind up, you and your classmates have an enormous opportunity to bring about significant change in our future. Science and technology will drive this transformation, and we need our future leaders to have a deep understanding of science and technology in order to remake this world.

14 responses to “Some reflections”

  1. Carl Aziz says:

    Dear Stu,

    Thank you for keeping us updated on the possibility of affording our daughter an education at MIT. Your comments are greatly appreciated.

    We look forward to meeting you at CPW.


  2. Photon says:

    If you’re looking for a less-expensive way to pay for housing at MIT, consider an MIT Independent Living Group and pay less than $2000 per semester for bed and board for your student to live at MIT.

  3. S, '11 says:

    Well said Mr. Schmill.

  4. guy'11 says:

    great post!!! I totally agree.

  5. Dear Stu,

    It is great that you have increased the finaid budget by 10%. But it would help many of us parents if you could also change the criteria for the ‘subsidized’ stafford loans. The current interest rate on the ‘unsubsidized’ stafford loan (at 6.8%) is not in keeping with the current economic conditions in the country. Even though my family income does not allow my child to receive MIT tuition waiver, it would at least be helpful if our child received ‘subsidized’ stafford loans where the interest rates are more reasonable. As a parent, I would urge MIT to consider revising the income cut-off for subsidized stafford loans just as you have done for tuition waiver. After all many of us parents have lost over 30% of the value of our retirment savings and it is not reasonable for MIT to look at what we had in our 401K a year ago in deciding whether or not to offer the subsidized loans.

    Ram – A parent

  6. JLAB '13 says:

    I agree very much with the claim that science-based jobs will continue to be in demand, no matter the economic situation. The people who are in the most trouble are those who work at manufacturing jobs, where companies need to close a plant here, or ship jobs overseas. The people who design the products, who do the nitty-gritty elements of how things work, will always be in demand.

    I’m not going to yell “Third!” I’m not going to do it.

  7. Narce says:

    Thanks for the entry ^.^ Paying for MIT will be hard, but the work will be harder raspberry I’m happy to join the class of ’13!

  8. jdk says:

    Hi Stu,

    I have a question that seems to pose a challenge with finding an answer to; Does MIT admit older students as undergrads? Now, by older student, I am not talking about the ‘twenty-five year old’, but instead someone who is in their thirties. I have searched relentlessly and I am unable to find any statistic or other information.

    Yes, I am the thirty-something student who would like to transfer into MIT. I am not looking to be chanced, as I feel that my academic (and other related activities) are on par with MIT. I am simply requesting a yes or no answer to the above question.

  9. To jdk: Why would you think that the Institute would discriminate based on age? Transfers are rare, but if you can hack the work, it should be possible. As I said, room for transfers is rare. If there isn’t room as an undergrad, then grad school is a possibility. I knew many grad students who could have been MIT undergrads based on their performance in grad school, but went elsewhere for various other reasons. Good luck.

  10. Jim Rome says:

    The best thing about an MIT education is that it installs a confidence in its students. When I finished MIT, I knew I could solve any problem (in my fields) somehow. When I work with many people from lesser schools, they often fold when the going gets hard. It is then easier to do the work myself.

    Of course, this confidence comes from solving all of those really really hard problem sets.

  11. Stu Schmill says:

    I wanted to respond to Ram’s excellent question.

    I certainly appreciate the advantage of the subsidized loans, and how changing the criteria for who receives them could offer some relief to families. The problem for us is that the federal government sets the criteria for the subsidized Stafford loan program; we don’t.

    It is very much worth connecting with our financial aid office, however, if you have questions about it, as they can help ensure that the data we are using to calculate the need (based on your financial aid application) is accurately reflecting your current financial situation.

    –Stu Schmill