Williams College Announces ‘All Grant’ Financial Aid Policy

Williams College Wednesday announced plans to adopt a “fully subsidized” financial aid program, apparently the first of its kind. Starting this fall, the institution will eliminate loans, as well as on-campus employment and summer income requirements, from all aid programs, replacing them entirely with grants.

Maud S. Mandel, president of Williams, said in an interview that the new policy — which will apply to current and incoming students — would bring the college closer to its goal of “true affordability” for everyone who receives aid. The initiative, she hopes, will ease the burden students often feel when juggling work, school and other commitments, while worrying about debt after graduation.

Previously, only students from families earning less than $75,000 a year received financial aid without a loan at Williams. Most aided students have on-campus jobs, typically working six to eight hours a week as part of their aide program. And Williams previously required aid recipients to contribute about $1,550, on average, of their summer earnings each year to help cover tuition (a college policy announcement last fall that he would eliminate).

Although Elizabeth Creighton, dean of admissions and financial services at Williams, said some aid recipients at Williams would choose to continue working, “it is time that is freed up for students to use for other experiences”.

Williams’ new initiative is a variation on a theme in the rarefied ranks of wealthy and renowned colleges. More than 20 years ago, Princeton University became the first institution to adopt a “Nopeloan program, replacing funds that families previously had to borrow with grants, which do not need to be repaid. Since then, Amherst College, Harvard University, and a handful of other highly selective campuses have followed suit. Last fall, Smith College announcement that it would replace all loans with grants, the first women’s college to do so.

In total, more than 75 public and private colleges provided loans either to all students or to those from families below various income thresholds. Recently, The Ohio State University announced a ambitious project raise $800 million over the next decade so all students can graduate “without the burden of student loans.” It’s an expensive proposition, at any scale.

Williams, a liberal arts college with about 2,000 students, has already taken the loan-free route. The institution canceled loans from its aid programs in 2008, around the same time that several other private colleges, supported by growing endowments, did the same.

But soon after, the economy collapsed and university endowments plummeted. This is followed by numerous reminders that college commitments to affordability can grow and decline as markets evolve. In 2010, Williams’ acting president announced that the college was ending its no-loan policy, writing that the college was “in a strong financial position by virtually all comparisons – except with that of the Williams of yore.” three years old.

Today’s Williams is in an enviable financial position. In fiscal year 2021, which ended last June, the college saw its endowment grow from $2.8 billion to $4.2 billion (“an extraordinary year,” its most recent). annual investment report said). This will help support new policies that the college says will help all students (about 53% of all undergraduates) receive aid. Additionally, the college said it adjusted its financial aid methodology last year to reduce contributions for some families by $4,500.

It’s a fact – Williams operates in a sphere that most colleges don’t. In 2022-23, the college will charge $77,300 for tuition, room and board, but its average aid package will push $70,000 a year. According to the college’s estimates, the average middle-income student will receive about $35,000 more in aid over four years thanks to its new policies, and the average low-income student (whose aid programs were already loan-free ) will receive nearly $16,000. in additional grants. In total, the college said, it would increase its financial aid budget by $6.75 million per year, to $77.5 million per year.

As with any discussion of financial aid policies, it is important to keep some caveats in mind. For one thing, a college’s no-loan policy doesn’t mean that a given student and their parents won’t have to borrow money to make that college affordable for them. A family’s expected contribution, as determined by a financial aid formula, may exceed what they can actually pay in real life.

At Princeton, nearly one in five recent graduates have borrowed money, graduating with $9,400 in debt, depending on the universitywell below the national average of around $30,000. At Williams, the average graduation debt for the Class of 2021 was $12,300.

So-called elite colleges can be several things at once. Generous, certainly. But also exclusive beyond words. Williams received more than 15,000 applications – for around 550 places. These are tough odds for anyone hoping to reap the fruits of the college’s new financial aid policies.

A financial aid policy can also be several things at once. A good-hearted attempt to lighten student burdens – and an assertive strategy to compete with rival institutions for desirable applicants. Especially those in the middle between very low and high income students.

Although approximately one in five students at Williams receives a Federal Pell Scholarship, nearly half of all students do not receive any financial aid from the college. A 2017 analysis by The New York Times found that the median family income of a student attending Williams was $185,800.

Thirty-seven percent of college students are from minorities. But as of fall 2021, only 99 of 2,166 — 4.5% — of all undergraduate students identified as black (143 identified as two or more races, non-Hispanic), according to the college. Common data set.

Mandel, who has been president of Williams since 2018, said increasing student diversity, by many measures, is a big priority for the college — and the new financial aid program will help it do just that. that: “Talking to students for many years, what I often hear about is the enormous pressure that the university can put on individuals and their families as they try to navigate un only in all the learning and all the activities they want to do, but also the burden that comes from having to work jobs to pay to have access to all those opportunities.

And that reminds us of an important fact: financial assistance that simply allows you to register is one thing. A financial aid package that allows you to take full advantage of college opportunities is another.