Is Williams financial aid stingy or generous? Consider some recent claims on College Confidential:

I am disappointed with the financial aid offer I received from Williams. How have others found their financial aid offers? I thought that Williams might practice similar policies as Amherst, but comparing the two offers, my family would have to pay $8,500~$9,000 more next year for me to go to Williams over Amherst. I was a bit surprised at the difference…is this common?

Yeah, mine sucked too =(
$15k more per year than MIT…ah well.

I’m disappointed with the Williams package. I have yet to receive my Amherst package but I hope it’s better because I don’t think I can afford Williams

i got into comparable schools (swarthmore, amherst, etc) and williams definitely has the lowest finaid offer.

Comments:

1) Those are just the complaints from this thread. Others are happy with their offers, noting that the deal from Williams is the best that they received. And College Confidential is hardly an unbiased sample.

2) Still, there is no doubt that Williams financial aid is substantially less generous compared to places like Harvard, Stanford and Princeton. We lose many students to these schools, not just because they really prefer those places to Williams but because they think it is stupid to pay $5,000 or $10,000 per year more to be an Eph. And who could blame them? Even though I think that most of the students who choose Harvard over Williams would have been better off choosing Williams all else equal, I have a had time insisting that someone should pay extra to go to Williams. Consider Daniel Olson’s plight:

Yale’s financial-aid offer made a difference for Daniel Olson, a high school senior at Cranston High School West in Rhode Island, who was accepted regular decision.

Olson, who said he is leaning toward Yale, said the financial-aid packages at Dartmouth College and Williams College “do not come close” to what Yale has offered him.

Besides, Olson said, he fell in love with the residential-college system when he came to visit.

“I was taken by the beauty of the campus, I was taken by the students, I was taken by the number of ways to get involved,” Olson said.

Instead of spending money on things like Mount Greylock Regional High School, Williams ought to ensure that its financial aid packages are comparable to those offered by its competitors. We want the Daniel Olson’s of the world to choose Williams over Yale just as Julia Sendor ’08 chose Williams over Harvard 4 years ago.

3) I think that this leads to a situation in which virtually no “middle class” students (family incomes between $60,000 and $200,000) choose Williams over those schools, precisely because our financial aid is less generous. And, given that many/most poor families would be more likely (?) to favor a “name” school over Williams even in a case where the cost is the same (zero), this would suggest that the vast majority of students who choose Williams over one of these schools are very wealthy. True?

4) There is an amazing three-part Record series to be written about financial aid at Williams, the history, the debates and the exact workings of the current policy. Who will write it? Consider:

Every school calculates aid differently, in same cases, you will do better at Williams than its peers, in some cases (including yours, alas) worse. Considering both schools now require no loans at all, I am pretty surprised at the difference. But if you really want to attend Williams, don’t let the aid offer stop you — if you have a better offer at Amherst or MIT or anyplace else, definitely show that to the financial aid office and see if they will match — they may well do so, and it’s worth a shot. Don’t view this as a final, unmaleable offer, again, especially if you have better offers from peer institutions.

What happens when an admitted student does this? Does Williams just say, “Sorry. Our offer is fixed.” Or does it consider how much it wants the student and make decisions accordingly? Reasonable people can differ about what the policy should be, but thousands of us are curious about what the policy actually is. The Record should tell us. Start by contacting Daniel Olson.

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