Financial Aid Sit-In
On May 18, 1971, approximately
200 African American students entered the office of President Asa S.
Knowles, embarking on a sit-in to demonstrate their frustration with
the lack of financial assistance available to African American students.
They confronted President Knowles about the difficulty of financing
their five years at Northeastern, and they brought to his attention
the fact that most of the financial aid offered to African Americans
came in the form of loans rather than outright grants. They also expressed
frustration with co-op brochures that boasted jobs that could help finance
their education when the reality was that it was difficult to get these
That same day, President
Knowles, Gilbert MacDonald (Vice-President of Student Affairs), Kenneth
G. Ryder (Vice-President and Dean of University Administration; Northeastern’s
president, 1975-1989), Charles Devlin (Director of Finance), Robert
Caswell (Director of Financial Aid), and Daniel Roberts (Vice-President
of Finance) met with students to address their financial concerns. The
students presented President Knowles and the other administrators with
proposed financial guidelines for the university’s African American
students, stating that they all were to be placed on Martin Luther King,
Jr. Scholarships and that 80% of their financial needs should be met
by grants. Knowles called a meeting with 13 of the 200 demonstrators
and the Trustees’ Committee on Student Affairs for May 21.
At the meeting, financial
aid guidelines for entering African American students were established.
While the university was not able to guarantee full tuition for all
African American students for five years, it did agree to increase the
number of Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholars from 50 to 200; however,
only 50 of the scholars were to be guaranteed tuition, room and board,
and other educational costs. The other 150 were given aid based on need
and available resources. Further, President Knowles agreed to allow
African American students to review the university’s financial
outlook every May. Special efforts were also made in the Financial Aid
Office to inform students of their financial situation several weeks
before the start of each term.