Williams Provides Data to U.S. Senate Finance Committee

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., March 3, 2008 — Williams College has responded to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee with information it asked for on the college’s endowment, fees, and financial aid.

The committee requested the information from the 136 colleges and universities in the country with endowments of $500 million or more. Williams’ endowment as of last June 30 was $1.89 billion.

The response from President Morton Owen Schapiro
( http://www.williams.edu/admin/president/letters/080229_SenateFinCom.pdf ) stressed the college’s focus on providing “the finest possible liberal arts education that is accessible to students of all economic backgrounds” and pointed out that Williams admits students without regard to their ability to pay and promises all admitted students the financial aid needed for them to attend for four years.

“Recent changes in the college’s financial aid have been dramatic,” Schapiro reported. “In the past ten years, we have significantly expanded the percentage and the income range of our students on Williams-based aid, and lowered for this group the median net cost (total fee minus grant aid) by 18 percent in nominal terms, which is 37 percent in real, inflation-adjusted terms.”

The percentage of students on Williams-based aid has risen to 47 percent overall and to more than 50 percent in the most recent entering class. Meanwhile, the percentage of aided students with the greatest financial need (those who receive grants that cover 75 percent or more of the total fee) has increased five-fold, and the family income at the 95th percentile of the aided group has risen to $178,600.

The committee asked for the average price paid by all students. After reporting that over the past ten years, this is virtually unchanged in real terms — up one half of one percent, Schapiro added that a fuller description of recent pricing at Williams would be as follows:

The college’s total fee represents roughly half of our annual operating spending per student, so even total-fee payers receive in subsidy an amount equal to what they pay. In addition, the total fee is paid by families in roughly the top 5 percent of U.S. incomes. Families from the remaining roughly 95 percent, who generally qualify for Williams-based aid, have over the last ten years seen a reduction in their median net price of 37 percent in real terms. This will go down further now that we’ve eliminated loans, and further still with any additional changes in our financial aid policies.

Williams announced last fall that beginning in the coming academic year it would eliminate all loans from students’ aid packages and replace them with larger grants. It is studying the possibility of further expansions of aid.

“The high-quality, highly subsidized, and widely accessible education that Williams offers depends, in increasing part, on spending from endowment,” Schapiro said, pointing out that over the past decade the college has spent each year an average of six percent from its endowment.

“We take seriously our role as stewards of the funds given to us,” Schapiro concluded. “We devote considerable administrative, faculty, and trustee effort to making these complicated financial decisions in ways that support our mission and that honor the enormous trust invested in us by those who provide those funds.”