At my request, HWC sent in these notes on Swarthmore’s finances and comparisons, in terms of disclosure, with Williams.

There’s some overview stuff in the annual reports. The management discussions are quite good, particularly if you read them over time:

http://www.swarthmore.edu/Admin/investment_office/

http://www.swarthmore.edu/Admin/investment_office/FinancialRpt_06-07.pdf

Also, the discussion of each year’s operating budget has some more overview:

http://www.swarthmore.edu/Admin/investment_office/BudgetSummary08-09.pdf

But, no. Not a lot of detailed level spending information beyond the “spending by natural classification” section of the “notes” right at the end of each year’s financial report.

I don’t expect Morty to provide the level of detail you are seeking. But, when I’ve looked at dozens of colleges’ financial reports and can’t go to Williams’ report and quickly identify the size of the endowment and the endowment spending for operations, something is not as clear as it could be. Endowment per student, operating expenses per student, and net revenue per student are the first things I want to know about a college.

The Williams Econ department’s high ed finance project is all over those indicators. Why should they be hard to find in Williams’ annual report?

I don’t have a problem with Williams’ reporting overall. Williams provides less data that some schools, more than many. The key shortcoming is the lack of any management discussion or historical charts that help the layman understand the annual financial reports. I have to go to the NACUBO endowment survey each year to find out what William’s endowment is because the annual report has it all co-mingled with estate trusts such that the number isn’t the number they report to NACUBO. How hard would it just be to just add a sentence that says: The endowment on June 30th was…

It’s not like one of these schools that needs to obfuscate. Williams College’s financial strength is readily apparent and unassailable.

For now. During good times, Williams can get away with opaqueness. During bad times, openness and transparency is even more important. Why can’t the College tell us the details of its budget/finances?

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