A first-year undergraduate once told me that what impressed her most about MIT was learning that “smartness comes in so many different ways.” I had never heard it put quite like that, but I knew exactly what she meant. For nearly 40 years, I’ve watched smartness arrive on campus in the form of passionate, curious, and inventive students and faculty who enrich our community and advance our mission.

But bringing that smartness to campus is hard work.

MIT is one of only five US colleges and universities that can make all of these three claims: We admit all undergraduate students without regard for their financial circumstances; we award all undergraduate financial aid based on need; and we meet the full demonstrated need of all of our admitted undergraduates. If you’ve shown you have the talent, creativity, and drive to succeed at MIT, we want you on our campus, regardless of your ability to pay.

To keep these commitments, we make a serious investment in financial aid. For the current academic year, MIT increased its financial aid commitment by 9.6%, about 2.5 times the increase in tuition and fees. For graduate students, we continue to enhance our support for merit-based fellowships to help defray the costs associated with tuition and health insurance.

And of course, investment in our community extends to our brilliant faculty. We compete for faculty talent in every field, and an endowed professorship can be the decisive factor in convincing prospective colleagues that MIT is the best place to invest their talent. Support for scholarships, fellowships, and professorships doesn’t often make headlines, but the truth is that no other form of support is more essential to maintaining the excellence of MIT.

To me, higher education is a little like space exploration. It’s a thrill to build the rocket, and you can’t beat the feeling of discovering a new planet. But if you don’t have a world-class launching pad—in our case, talented students and faculty—you’re not getting off the ground.

Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of nearly 100,000 alumni and friends, we’ve made tremendous progress toward our goal for the MIT Campaign for a Better World. To truly make a better world, however, we must never ease up on our commitment to lowering the barriers for talent—and for every variety of “smartness”!—from across the country and around the world.

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L. Rafael Reif

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