The student population in Cambridge may swell by another 300 undergrads in the next few years, due to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s tentative plan to increase the size of its student body.
MIT—currently home to 4,153 undergraduates—is considering increasing that number to about 4,500, according to MIT Dean of Admissions Stuart Schmill, though no plans have been finalized as to when or how the increase might occur.
MIT had approximately 4,500 undergraduate students throughout the 1980s and 1990s, according to Schmill, but the university reduced its class size when it began requiring all freshmen to live on campus.
“We’d like to educate more scientists and engineers for the nation and the world,” Schmill said. “That’s really the motivating factor for us to bring enrollment back up.”
Bloomberg News reported last week that MIT hoped to increase the class size as a means of raising revenue. Schmill denied this explanation, saying that admissions at MIT will continue to be need-blind in the future and that even the full cost of tuition does not cover all the expenses of students’ education. Instead, he said plans for a size increase have raised concerns about the costs more undergrads might entail.
“If you add one more student, it probably doesn’t increase your costs that much. If you bring in 20, it probably does—you might need to add an extra section of a class, and you need somebody to teach it. If you bring in 300, you have to house them somewhere. There are increased costs that come with that,” Schmill said.
A dormitory which has been under renovation for several years might be the key to housing the additional students, but Schmill did not know when that renovation will be completed. Administrators have also not decided whether MIT would grow its undergraduate class size by accepting a larger freshman class or by admitting upperclass transfer students.
Schmill said he did not anticipate that additional faculty would be hired in response to an increase in the number of students.
Harvard’s Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 expressed excitement about MIT’s potential size increase. “Anytime there are more spaces in America’s top universities I think it’s a good thing for our country and also a good thing for the world,” he said, noting that Princeton and Yale have each recently engaged in plans to increase their student populations.
Fitzsimmons also said he hoped news of MIT’s potential admissions increase might make elite universities appear more accessible and thus encourage students to apply to schools like Harvard as well.
“I think if it does turn out to be true,” he said, “it’s a win-win for everyone.”