In the Fall of 2016, the student group Class Awareness, Support, and Equality (CASE) developed and released a survey to the student body. The purpose was to validate the need for improved or new programs to support students who have endured or are enduring a financially difficult period during their time at MIT. CASE considered various ways in which coming from a lower socioeconomic status could influence one’s housing or major choice, reasons for working, financial literacy, professional opportunities, and a myriad of other factors.
From the results, we recommended that MIT establish a representative or office for individuals with a low income or lower socioeconomic background. There currently exists an office for minority and first generation students, but individuals may fall outside of the purview of those offices and lack the support structure necessary to have the best experience at MIT. We would like such an office to serve as a conduit for continuing the conversation about tackling low income challenges, and be a support service for students to turn to when facing difficulties. We called on MIT to create a taskforce to identify additional solutions in order to address the challenges delineated in this report. We hope the MIT administration further engages with students to discuss the challenges and methods to address these challenges lower income students face at MIT. As part of this taskforce, we urged MIT to reevaluate the requirement for meal plans for low income students in Tier 1 dorms, the requirement for students to meet qualifications for returning from leave that involve financial expenditures, and the size of the student contribution in financial aid packages. We further called on MIT to increase affordable food options on campus.
These results were used to kickstart the new Accessing Resources at MIT (ARM) Coalition for students undergoing financial hardship, and the SwipeShare program for students going through food insecurity. Much more progress still needs to be made but CASE is glad to see change happening because of the survey results.