Laughing, shaking hands and trawling for funds, the presidents of Harvard and MIT and the mayor of Cambridge met with school administrators and business leaders last night to extol a college scholarship program for city students.
Harvard and MIT have both pledged $10,000 to support the City of Cambridge Scholarship Trust Fund, which will give small grants to students from the Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. President Neil L. Rudenstine presented Harvard's check to Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves '72 last night at a reception at the Harvard Faculty Club.
"I feel that we are up to something, and that something is good," Reeves said of the program.
City administrators hope to raise $100,000 for an endowment that would provide up to 30 scholarships each year for Cambridge students who have been accepted to colleges that can't award financial aid in the amount of the students' full need. Last year, six students attended college with city-funded scholarships.
The scholarships total only one or two thousand dollars each, Reeves said, but close a crucial gap for students unable to afford full tuition.
Reeves announced last night that the city had raised almost $50,000, and hoped to reach its goal in the next year. Of 20 corporations the city contacted, Reeves said, Harvard, MIT and three others have responded.
The fund has also received $28,000 in individual contributions and donations from Cambridge residents who choose to check off a box on their tax returns stipulating that a portion of their income taxes be used to support the scholarships, said city Financial Director James P. Maloney.
Students Encourage Generosity
Five Rindge and Latin seniors attended last night's event to encourage the potential corporate sponsors attending to give generously.
"We live in a city with all these huge universities and resources and huge opportunities. We're part of the city. The Cambridge schools give a lot to the city. I think it's important for universities and companies to give something back," said senior Gordon L. Beeferman.
The students said sending them to college would benefit not only them but the community at large, because a college degree would enable them to work to help others.
"Our goals are not just personal," said Nicole A. Morse.
Harvard is lending support for the program because of its status as both an educational institution and a member of the community, administrators said.
"It's something that's very suitable for our mission," said Jane H. Corlette, acting vice president for government, community, and public affairs at Harvard.
Unlike Harvard, many colleges and universities are no longer able to provide funding for every student they accept, and fewer and fewer have need-blind admissions, Rudenstine said.
"Harvard is one of the fortunate ones. MIT is one of the fortunate ones," he said. The grants Harvard helps to fund will allow local students to attend the college of their choice in "a much tougher [financial] environment," he added.
MIT President Charles M. Vest reiterated the importance of rising tuition costs.
"When I was an undergraduate my tuition was $120. So things have changed dramatically," he said.
With a college education, they said, Rindge and Latin students from underprivileged backgrounds could go on to become world leaders--or university presidents.
"Neil [Rudenstine], Chuck [Vest] and I, we each are boys who have grown into men who come from reasonably simple backgrounds," Reeves said. For them, he said, these grants have personal meaning as well.
While representatives of local companies talked to each other about the difficulties of offering funding, even for programs that appear worthwhile, the students spoke about the difficulties of their daily lives.
"Right now, my father's not working because of health problems and my mom's the only one working, and I have a little brother at home, and I do feel the pressure to do well," said Edgar W. Bacai, who plans to enter business or medicine if he can attend college.
"I feel that the reason I'm doing this is so later in life I'll be able to support my parents," he said.
While all of the students, who were chosen to speak based on their academic and extracurricular achievements, have strong records, they may have to rely on the city fund or similar programs in order to attend college.
They said that for them and many of their friends, a college education would be worth sacrificing everything--and sacrificing everything may be what it takes.
"There's no way that I'm not going to go to college," said Waleska Tiredo, whose father told her last week that her family may not be able to afford tuition.
"I'll do anything--student loans, work a lot-- I'll do anything to go. But not having money, is like a really big stop sign that's not going to get out of the way," she said.