This article originally appeared on MIT News on June 7, 2017.
MIT has received a commitment of $140 million in unrestricted funds that can support any facet of the Institute’s educational and research mission. The contribution, from an alumnus who wishes to remain anonymous, provides flexible resources that reach across the entire Institute, allowing MIT to invest in daring, high-risk ideas; address some of the world’s most urgent challenges; and sustain support for students, faculty, and the physical campus.
“No one has ever made it through life without someone else’s help. As a past recipient of MIT’s generous financial aid, I benefited tremendously from the opportunity to pursue my MIT education and am extremely appreciative of all the ways that MIT has shaped me,” the donor said. “I am also inspired by MIT’s vision in tackling global challenges, and I trust its leadership to take bold steps to make the world a better place. I am blessed to be able to give back to the Institute so other students can experience what I did, and so that the Institute can continue to excel in groundbreaking achievements. I hope this gift inspires others to give back to MIT and to pay it forward to the society that we all share.”
“I am inspired by MIT’s vision in tackling global challenges, and I trust its leadership to take bold steps to make the world a better place…. I hope this gift inspires others to give back to MIT and to pay it forward to the society that we all share.”
“For the faculty and students of MIT, unrestricted resources are the vital fuel that helps big ideas take off,” said MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “This remarkable gift will magnify our strength in education, research, and innovation and help foster transformative discoveries, inventions, and solutions to conquer new frontiers and build a better world. We are honored by the expression of confidence this donor has shown in MIT’s capacity for impact, and we are grateful for this visionary support.”
The gift will help to drive forward the innovative thinking that is an MIT hallmark: Unrestricted dollars often serve to advance early-stage ideas that may be considered too risky to qualify for backing from traditional sources. This type of flexible funding provides resources such as laboratories, staff support, and equipment to foster the work of MIT’s faculty and students. Crucially, unrestricted support also helps MIT maintain its ongoing commitment to robust financial aid and priorities at the Institute’s core.
The impact of unrestricted funds can be seen across campus in the work of faculty breaking new ground in such areas as Alzheimer’s disease, where research into a unique visual stimulation technique could herald a breakthrough in the understanding and treatment of the condition, and in physics, where MIT faculty have played a primary role in detecting the largest collection of antimatter particles recorded in space — helping to advance our fundamental knowledge about the universe.
Unrestricted dollars have also advanced MIT’s work in digital learning, enabling the Institute to seize the opportunity to reinvent education for learners on campus and beyond with the creation of MITx.
The $140 million commitment announced today will strengthen MIT’s ability to ensure that every undergraduate who has earned admission to the Institute can enroll, regardless of family financial circumstances. In 2016, unrestricted funds in the Institute’s general budget covered 20 percent of MIT’s undergraduate scholarships and financial aid, and this amount has been budgeted to increase significantly in 2017 and 2018. MIT is one of five colleges and universities in the United States that provide all undergraduate financial aid based on need and that meet the full determined need of every admitted undergraduate student. Additionally, unrestricted funding allows MIT’s academic departments to attract and retain the most talented graduate students and faculty.
“In order to take on the world’s most pressing problems, we need the very best faculty and the brightest students working in the finest facilities. Unrestricted funds are critical in providing scholarship aid for our undergraduates, startup funds for junior faculty members, and support for campus renewal,” says Israel Ruiz, MIT’s executive vice president and treasurer. “The demand for unrestricted dollars to enable MIT to continue to push the boundaries of knowledge is never fulfilled, and we are grateful to donors at all levels who signal their trust and belief in MIT with these kinds of gifts.”
Unrestricted support also aids in the renewal and evolution of MIT’s physical infrastructure, supporting the Institute’s academic, research, and community priorities. Such funds are a vital resource for significant campus projects such as MIT.nano, a 200,000-square-foot nanotechnology and fabrication facility currently rising at the heart of MIT, and upcoming student housing revitalization and building efforts like the renovation of New House, the construction of a new undergraduate residence hall on Vassar Street in West Campus, and a new graduate residence tower in Kendall Square.
Today’s announcement comes as MIT enters the second year of the public phase of its $5 billion Campaign for a Better World, which seeks to advance the Institute’s work on some of humanity’s toughest challenges. As of June 1, MIT has raised $3.4 billion toward the campaign goal, with gifts coming from more than 87,000 alumni and friends.