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- Williams College is reducing loans and work requirements for its financial aid programs beginning fall 2022, replacing dollar-for-dollar funding streams with grants, he announced on Wednesday.
- These and related changes are expected to cost $6.75 million a year in a financial aid budget totaling $77.5 million a year, the wealthy private nonprofit Massachusetts college said.
- College leaders believe Williams is the first institution in the nation to completely eliminate loans and work requirements from financial aid packages. They hope the changes will simplify the financial aid process for students and promote affordability.
Overview of the dive:
Admissions practices at private, nonprofit colleges that are both wealthy and highly selective have come under scrutiny.
This is all the more true since the Supreme Court of the United States consider a case on race-conscious admissions to Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and as the Varsity Blues admissions scandal sharpened criticism against the special treatment for donor children. Earlier this yeara group of former students have sued leading private nonprofit universities, alleging they participated in a price-fixing scheme that drove up the price of college.
Williams becomes at least the third-highest-ranked institution in the past seven months to make a major change to its admissions processes.
Washington University in St. Louis said in october it would begin admitting full-time domestic undergraduates for the first time on a needs basis after its endowment ballooned amid investment market gains. Amherst College, Massachusetts, said later that month that it was ending legacy admissions, the practice of giving preference to the children of former students.
Williams is already one of a very small number of institutions that both have blind needs and fully meet national student needs – meaning they admit students regardless of the amount of aid financial aid they will need and that they are committed to providing financial aid programs that cater to all students. demonstrated need.
Williams also prides herself on taking a “needs-seeking” approach since the early 2000s, in which she makes it a point to recruit and mentor students from disadvantaged backgrounds. About 20% of the college’s incoming undergraduate class who enrolled for the first time in 2019-20 received federal Pell Grants, considered a proxy for low-income status, according to federal data.
For a brief period before the Great Recession hurt the finances of higher education institutions, Williams did not include student loans in its aid packages. Wednesday’s announcement marks a return to that no-loan policy, as well as the elimination of on-campus employment and summer earning requirements.
Currently, any Williams student receiving financial aid is asked to work 6 to 8 hours a week, said Liz Creighton, dean of admissions and student financial services. Sometimes this is done through the federal work-study program, but it can also include other on-campus jobs.
“We expect some students to choose to continue working,” Creighton said. “The difference is that any money they make from those hours worked is theirs and they keep it for what they see fit.”
The college also pays for the cost of textbooks, course materials, health insurance, trips home, summer storage, and other needs for students receiving financial aid. Last year, it adjusted its financial aid formulas to reduce parental contributions for low- and middle-income families. As a result, one in six families’ contributions dropped by $4,500 last year, the college said.
“We are very focused on our own students and making sure they have full access to the Williams experience,” college president Maud Mandel said. “We are not looking to force our aided students to work for Williams, but rather to take full advantage of everything we have to offer here during the summer and full years they have on campus.”
Most of the policy’s projected annual price, $5.75 million, will be used to eliminate work requirements and loans. The remaining $1 million will cover reworked financial assistance formulas to benefit low-income and middle-income families.
The college defines low-income families as earning less than $75,000 per year and middle-income families as earning between $75,000 and $175,000 per year.
Tuition, room, board and fees are listed at $77,300 at Williams for 2022-23. The average college financial aid is worth $67,000.
The college plans to enroll 2,121 undergraduate students next year. More than 1,100 usually receive financial aid from the institution.
Leaders did not discuss increasing the number of students admitted, Mandel said. Williams also doesn’t weigh eliminating legacy status as an admissions factor.
“We currently view legacy as one of many factors we consider when evaluating our student applicant pool,” Mandel said.
The college also operates an early admissions program, through which it typically enrolls about 200 students, or about 40% of each class enrolled.
Williams’ had the 30th-largest endowment in the nation in fiscal year 2021, according to an annual study of the National Association of College and University Business Leaders. It rose 46.8% year-over-year to $4.2 billion.