Rudenstine Affirms Student Aid Support

As the threat of cuts in federal funding of student aid looms larger, President Neil L. Rudenstine yesterday affirmed the University's commitment to need-blind admissions and need-based student aid.

"Most of all I'd like to emphasize...the commitment of the institution to the utmost degree in scope to need-blind admissions, need-based aid and open doors," Rudenstine said in an interview yesterday. "I think we're on exactly the right course, and we expect to stay on the course."

The magnitude of the cuts is still being debated in Congress, but Rudenstine said that the proposal to limit subsidies on the interest for Stafford loans would be particularly troublesome.

He estimated that the average undergraduate receiving aid under the program could be hit with a shortfall of between $3,000 and $4,000.

And the cuts would dramatically impair the University's ability to help students, he said.


"[I]n terms of the initial proposal, if those were carried out in student aid and research, it would be really quite devastating, and I'm not just talking about Harvard, but to all of higher education," Rudenstine said. "So I take it... very seriously, and I've been spending a fair amount of time on it."

But the University is still committed to the ideals of bringing in the best students, regardless of their socioeconomic status, Rudenstine said.

"One of the propositions of the whole institution is that... you learn an enormous amount from formal study, but you learn as much from the living experience," Rudenstine said. "If there are people who have different perspectives, and different views, and different backgrounds, chances are you'll learn more."

"So keeping the doors open, keeping access, keeping admissions need-blind and aid need-based is a fundamental proposition that we're [trying to] protect, guard, continue to espouse," Rudenstine added.

Indeed, the president said he has been traveling to Washington on a "reasonably regular basis," lobbying various members of Congress to keep federal dollars flowing towards highereducation.

And just last Thursday, Rudenstine and thepresidents of other Massachusetts universities metwith Gov. William F. Weld's "66 to talk about thecuts, he said.

"[I'm trying] just to present facts, and tomake sure people recognize what the impact onstudents, families and institutions would be ifthis happened," Rudenstine said. "And since thefacts are sufficiently dramatic, they...speak forthemselves in many respects....My own sense isthat the nation just has such a deep stake in allof this, in the education of so many people."

Still, Rudenstine stopped short of saying thatthe University would be able to maintain currentlevels of aid if budget cuts go through.

"We would obviously be concerned to try to helpout, but that adds an enormous amount to thestudent aid bill, and who knows who has theresources to do that?" Rudenstine asked.

Reductions in research funding would also harmthe nation in the long run, he said.

"It's not only intellectually important, butalso terms of health and theeconomy...because of what has been discoveredthrough basic research," he said. "There has beena very important social yield; there's a veryimportant intrinsic intellectual yield. It wouldbe a great, great pity if those were damaged.

In other news, Rudenstine refused to confirm ordeny a Crimson report that Kennedy School ofGovernment Professor David T. Ellwood '75, anassistant secretary in the U.S. Department ofHealth and Human Services, is the top contenderfor the deanship of the Kennedy School.

A search committee has been searching for areplacement for Albert Carnesale, who has beenserving as Kennedy School dean and Universityprovost simultaneously since his promotion morethan 10 months ago.

Rudenstine termed the report a "veryinteresting story," but would comment onlyenigmatically on its content.

"All I can say is that we really are makinggood progress now, and I wouldn't be too quick tojump to any conclusions," Rudenstine said.

"I'm not being clever about this, it justhappens to be the fact," he added