Thought that my 1,400 words on the cost of the WNY program was my last word on the topic? Think again!

The Waters Report is a political document, designed to lead its readers to certain conclusions. It does so by means both fair and unfair. One of its principal complaints is the “significant expense” of WNY, yet its description of those expenses and comparisons to Williams-Exeter Program in Oxford (WEPO) is incomplete at best.

But the dog that does not bark in the Report is Williams Mystic. Here we have a program with similar aims, also serving a small, largely self-selected group of students and faculty. Like WNY (and unlike WEPO) it has an explicit focus on experiential learning and an implicit leaning toward certain academic fields. Why does the Report never mention Williams Mystic? Specifically, why are we not told how the per student “subsidy” compares between Mystic and WNY?

A priori, I would have expected such a comparison to make WNY look bad. Surely the cost of running a program in suburban Connecticut is less than the cost of a program in Manhattan. Note that many (?) non-Williams students attend Williams Mystic and are charged $24,500. This is more than the pro-rated cost of a semester at Williams since it does not include Winter Study. Since the College does not (?) charge a Williams student more for attending Williams Mystic, there is at least some subsidy here. But, if Mystic is much cheaper than WNY, then why wouldn’t the authors of the Report point that out? Why wouldn’t they use the comparison as a way to point out that WNY is too expensive?

It is unlikely that they lacked access to the data since committee member Keith Finan works in the Provost’s Office and probably knows where to find information about almost anything that Williams spends money on. Perhaps this was a simple oversight on their part. But the Committee members are smart, careful people. I wager that the comparison occurred to them and that, for some reason, they decided not to present it to the faculty. If I were a member of the pro-WNY forces, I would want to find out why. I would suspect that the Committee did not present the data because, when you look closely, Mystic is fairly expensive, especially when you account accurately for costs of the expeditions. Care to determine a market price for a trip like this?

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