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MIT, Harvard Institute New Aid Programs

The changes, which follow a similar decision by Princeton University in late January, will offer students more grants instead of loans to cover tuition and other expenses, cutting the price of college.

Financial aid officials said some other schools also might tweak their financial aid programs, but UNC and Duke universities likely will not.

Betsy Hicks, MIT director of student financial services, said their change in the financial aid system was not a result of the similar programs at Princeton and Harvard.

"We were already discussing (the possibility) last summer, and we were already at that point (to make an announcement)," Hicks said.

"We are in a fortunate position that we have more opportunities to do this."

Hicks said the new aid program would allow students to concentrate more on school work because they would be able to work less and not worry about paying back thousands of dollars in student loans.

The grants will be funded through the schools' endowments.

Don Betterton, director of undergraduate financial aid at Princeton, also said he believes their decision will benefit students.

Both Hicks and Betterton said they think that a few more universities may follow Princeton, Harvard and MIT's lead but that a nationwide trend will not begin.

"You may see a few more (universities)," Betterton said. "As a national trend, no."

Hicks added that each school is different and needs to make the right choice for its students.

"Each school needs to look not only at what the competitors are doing, but what is best for (the school)," she said. "It was the right decision for MIT to make."

James Belvin, Duke director of financial aid, echoed Hicks.

He also said he thinks that a few other universities might follow Princeton and MIT's lead but that Duke will not.

He added that the school has no emergency response planned because it has been working on the problem of providing an affordable education for a while.

"(We) have no immediate plans," Belvin said. "The last four or five years we have been working independent of other schools on (this issue). Our response is an ongoing effort to improve our effort."

Belvin also said Duke has already begun putting programs into place, such as reduced loans, for summer school students.

But Shirley Ort, director of scholarships and student aid at UNC, said the university might eventually feel the pressure by Princeton, Harvard and MIT's changes.

"Certainly actions like those of Princeton place pressure on other selective schools, and at some point we may feel the impact of that," she said.

But Ort said she is confident that UNC will remain competitive among top high school students.

"Finances and student aid or scholarship offers are important to students and families, but I don't think they constitute the primary consideration in a student's decision to choose Carolina," she said.

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"Most students I talk with come here because they have their hearts set on Carolina and want the benefit of our academic programs and student life."

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