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MIT President Charles M. Vest said Wednesday (Sept. 2) MIT plans to appeal the decision of US District Court Judge Louis C. Bechtle, who ruled against MIT in the antitrust case involving financial aid and scholarships.
"If this decision is upheld, colleges will be even more hard-pressed to maintain need-blind admissions to all," Dr. Vest said. "Over time, this decision then would effectively erode the freedom of opportunity to get a college education, regardless of income."
Dr. Vest held a hastily called news conference at the Westchester Marriott Hotel in Tarrytown, NY, near where he made a speech at noon time.
Judge Bechtle, in his 49-page opinion, referred to the 1992 Higher Education Reauthorization Act, which allows colleges to agree to provide only need-based aid and to develop together methods of determining need.
However, the judge said, MIT is enjoined from participating in any act that affects the price to be paid by a prospective student.
In his statement, Dr. Vest said:
"MIT intends to appeal this decision, and fight very hard to win the case. If this decision is upheld, colleges will be even more hard-pressed to maintain need-blind admissions to all.
Over time, this decision then would effectively erode the freedom of opportunity to get a college education, regardless of income.
"Student aid is the opposite of an across-the-board price-fixing policy. It is a gift-setting policy. It is individualized to fit the complex circumstances of each student. The big stick of the Sherman Antitrust Act has never before been applied to this kind of charitable activity by private non-profit organizations.
MIT made no money by giving money away. Indeed, even the full price of tuition pays only half what it costs MIT to educate each student.
"The Antitrust Division's action is an unwarranted intrusion by the federal government. "To award more than the need to a student on need-based financial aid is illegal under Federal law. If colleges are forced to give subsidies to relatively wealthy students, the colleges will not have enough money for scholarships to those who need them.
We are constantly reviewing procedures to improve the difficult task of determining financial aid.
"Congress passed a law this summer which specifically authorizes colleges-if they wish-to agree to grant their scholarship money solely on the basis of financial need, and to set fair standards for determining need. This action reinforces our belief in the propriety of our stance.
"MIT received extraordinary nationwide support last month, through friend of the court briefs from representatives of hundreds of private, public and religious colleges and other organizations. As they said, this case involves 'issues of surpassing importance to higher education' and to the future of this nation.
"We believe a higher court will uphold MIT's position."