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Cost Cutting Compendium

There have been a lot of cost-cutting ideas tossed around in comment sections and posts here, so I thought it would be useful to compile them all into one place.  I separate them into three categories: (1) the low hanging fruit that there is a general consensus on, (2) the more controversial ideas that would result in some real pain, would be difficult to carry out, and/or drew strenuous objections from other Ephbloggers (likely, Williams will have to adopt some, but not all, of these), and finally (3) the modest proposal ideas that are either purely humorous, were vociferously shouted down here, and/or would only have to be considered if things get considerably worse before they get better.  I am sure I am forgetting a slew, so if you want to remind me of other ideas — whether previously articulated or not –or object to my categorization of ideas on this list, make a note in the comments, and I will re-post an edited list in a week.

Low-hanging Fruit:
(1) Eliminate Williams in New York for time being (done)
(2) Postpone campus construction / major renovation projects (done)
(3) Salary and hiring freeze (done, although depends on definition of hiring freeze)
(4) Eliminate some administrative staff through attrition / retirements, especially new positions created during the flush times (aka don’t replace non-faculty personnel unless position is truly essential) (to be implemented, I believe)
(5) Cut the budget / staffing of OCL
(6) Cut athletic budget via:
(a) elimination of some assistant coach positions in heavily staffed sports
(b) cutting of teams’ off-season foreign trips (NESCAC-wide initiative)
(c) reducing in-season travel costs by pairing winter sports teams on travel weekends (NESCAC-wide initiative)
(d) eliminating P.E. requirement and reallocating resources to assistant / J.V. coaching slots
(e) reducing travel budget for athletic administrators to watch contests live
(7) Sell / donate Paresky TV’s (or, although this would not save costs in short run, utilize them as dorm T.V.’s)
(8) Fewer expensive speakers / pricey campus events
(9) Cutting non instruction-related departmental budgets / discretionary funds
(10) Move investment office to Williamstown
Tougher to Swallow (aka, David Kane specials):
(1) Cut assistant coaching positions to the bone (aka, no full time paid assistants for basketball, softball)
(2) Cut Bolin fellows
(3) Sell Mount Hope Farm (not so much controversial as likely not doable)
(4) Increase teaching loads to where they were five years ago (aka, add one additional class, one semester per year)
(5) Eliminate all but absolutely essential visiting professors
(6) Increase tuition revenue via a small (3-6 percent) increase in incoming class sizes
(7) Eliminate need-blind aid for internationals
(8) Reinstate student loans as a component of financial aid
(9) Postpone expensive environmental initiatives
(10) Reduce size of tenure track faculty (perhaps closer to levels of five years ago)
(11) A few more “development admits” each year
(12) Reduce or eliminate payments to local community (funding of local schools, etc.)
(13) Eliminate sabbatical grant program / temporary moratorium on sabbaticals
(14) Cut top administrator salaries
Modest Proposals (aka, Armageddon time):
(1) Sell naming rights to a building to the highest corporate bidder (or for that matter, individual bidder — perhaps a devious Amherst alum who insists on the Lord Jeffrey Amherst or Zephenia Swift Moore North Academic building)
(2) Eliminate the football team
(3) Eliminate the Economics department (gotta blame someone …)
(4) Means-based tuition (aka, super high tuition for those who can afford it)
(5) Eliminate need-blind admissions for domestic students
(6) Eliminate the CDE
(7) Eliminate Winter Study
(8) Eliminate Williams-Mystic
(9) Sell campus real estate / property
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Comments Disabled To "Cost Cutting Compendium"

#1 Comment By Steve Wollkind ’01 On March 18, 2009 @ 8:40 am

Why is Williams-Mystic so far down this list? I’ll admit that I’m woefully uninformed about what exactly Williams Mystic accomplishes or what it costs, but to my eye that looks like the easiest of the Armageddon options.

#2 Comment By David On March 18, 2009 @ 8:49 am

Excellent idea! I am working on almost the exact same project, with an idea of posting a different major cut (>$200,000) each day for the two weeks of spring break to generate discussions. Comments:

1) Why not separate out the jokes from the serious suggestions? (I am assuming that things like naming rights are jokes.)

2) Seperate out things that actually save money from things that don’t. It may be a good idea to, for example, increase teaching loads, but that does not save meaningful amounts of money in the next few years. Of course, on a longer horizon, higher teaching loads require fewer professors, but the College’s major focus right now is the budget for 2010 and 2011.

3) Separate out the big ticket items from smaller fare.

4) State/guess at dollars. Alas, I suspect that you have no better data than I have, but even a ballpark guess would be helpful.

5) How about eliminating the masters in Art History? Or Williams-in-Oxford? I am in favor of one but not the other, although it is tough to have a sensible opinion without spending data.

#3 Comment By jeffz On March 18, 2009 @ 8:49 am

Fair enough, to be honest, that hadn’t previously been discussed (so far as I recall) and I just tossed it in there as an afterthought … I have no idea what it costs either, but if substantial, I think that belongs in category two.

#4 Comment By jeffz On March 18, 2009 @ 8:52 am

(1) makes sense to me. I don’t have a really great sense on 2-4 but if folks want to provide rough guesses at dollar figures, go for it and I can incorporate.

Five I will add (I would say category three for both, especially b/c I am guessing a lot of funding for art history comes from the Clark rather than Williams, but if folks disagree, feel free to say so).

#5 Comment By frank uible On March 18, 2009 @ 9:07 am

Mothball the College for the duration.

#6 Comment By David On March 18, 2009 @ 9:31 am

I would also eliminate ideas from this list that aren’t very specific. Tough to have a meaningful discussion about selling real estate in general. Much better to discuss Mount Hope (or house X) specifically.

Another item is closing Dodd dining hall.

I don’t think that you should include ending need-blind aid for domestics since that won’t happen for at least a couple of years, even in the armegeddon scenario.

I would replace that with ending Questbridge. That might happen and would save money since many of those students would not apply to Williams without Questbridge. You can cancell Questbridge and still be need blind.

I would rephrase 5) to be just close the Office of Campus Life. (There would still be money to do some of what they did, but it would be administered elsewhere.)

I would drop things from the list that have already been done. Otherwise it is too busy.

I would add: “End participation in NCAA play-offs.” Although I would hate to see that happen, I suspect that this is fairly expensive. (True?) I suspect that teams would just raise money from parents and go on their own.

I would delete “Means-based tuition (aka, super high tuition for those who can afford it)” since that will never happen. Better to focus the discussion on things that are at least conceivable.

On 12, the College spends about $500,000 per year on local schools, charity and so on.

#7 Comment By anon On March 18, 2009 @ 9:32 am

A number of these things (cutting departmental budgets, fewer expensive speakers, etc.) have already been done.

Increasingly the teaching load and decreasing the number of tenure-track faculty will drastically cut down the number of tutorials. This would be a bad thing given how heavily Williams has pushed them and how much students like them.

#8 Comment By eyetolduso On March 18, 2009 @ 10:03 am

Eliminate study abroad. I think the number is 30% of the junior year tuition is sent elsewhere, while the costs of operation at Williams are mostly fixed. You would spend more on food and they would need rooms, but that could be easily accomplished. Eliminate need blind international. Plenty of rich students from other countries that desire a Williams education, and an ever increasing pool of poor here that need one. I never did understand the appropriateness of american tax payers supporting, via non-profit status, the education of foreign students.

#9 Comment By anon On March 18, 2009 @ 10:08 am

I think, to put it mildly, eliminating study abroad would be a ridiculous move in the current economic climate. Mastery of a foreign language is likely to be more, not less important as time goes by. Eliminating students ability to use their Williams tuition for study abroad would mean only the richest students could afford to engage in this very worthwhile pursuit.

#10 Comment By ’10 Abroad On March 18, 2009 @ 10:27 am


As someone who has studied abroad and had an incredibly worthwhile experience (and no, I wasn’t somewhere with free-flowing booze and beaches galore), I would be ardently against shutting down Study Abroad. That said, there is a trick that a good amount of schools use to still generate revenue from abroad students while they’re out of the country: force them to pay school tuition and then have Williams pay the program fee.

Consider this: Williams costs in the $15,000 ballpark (assuming no fin aid) for a semester (correct me if I’m wrong), but the vast majority of study abroad programs are probably closer to $10,000. Williams takes the $15, pays the $10, and pockets the difference. Obviously this would be affected by financial aid, but a large amount of schools — and reputable ones at that — have made a pretty penny off this. Whether or not it would cause a whole lot of anger directed towards Dean McKeon’s Hopkins office is another story…

#11 Comment By eyetolduso On March 18, 2009 @ 10:47 am

According to Williams they spend 75-80k per year to educate each student. Sending students away can not be a money making proposition if that is true. Again the costs of operation are mostly fixed so keeping the full amounts at home is better economics. I think it is still true? that the grades earned for study abroad do not count? so by definition there are questions regarding the academic importance of the programs.

#12 Comment By nuts On March 18, 2009 @ 10:51 am

I suspect that teams would just raise money from parents and go on their own.

You would be wrong, at least for basketball. All travel for NCAA basketball is paid for by the NCAA.

#13 Comment By Chotch On March 18, 2009 @ 10:59 am

Re: NCAAs- I believe travel, hotel, and a daily meal stipend is paid for by the NCAA. This is why in Div III the brackets for the early rounds are truly regional (as opposed to Men’s Div I basketball, where you can have a team from California travel to the east coast for a first round game).

#14 Comment By JeffZ On March 18, 2009 @ 11:24 am

I will in final version eliminate things that have already been done.

Just a reminder that this thread isn’t for a debate back and forth in detail about whether an idea should ultimately be implemented, but rather just trying to compile as many ideas as possible and put them roughly into buckets based on how much pain they woudl cause. (And btw, increasing the teaching load would actually in my view be able to increase or at least maintain tutorials, but again, I won’t delve into a full debate — the point is that, e.g., increasing teaching loads is something that — like basically all of these ideas — none of us want to see in the best possible worlds, but if it could potentially save money by requiring less visiting professors on campus, it is on the list of things to consider).

It does seem like study abroad could either cost or actually make money for the school depending on how tuition is apportioned, not clear that it is truly a cost savings measure based on above comments, so I won’t add that. I will add closing Dodd and ending Questbridge. I will leave out NCAA’s for now as it sounds like that is not something the college itself pays for.

#15 Comment By Whitney Wilson ’90 On March 18, 2009 @ 11:34 am

Regarding low-hanging fruit (3), has the College actually instituted a real pay freeze? (i.e. no “step-increases” or cost of living increases). If so, bravo to the College, since this can be a good way to save significant money while having relatively low impact on any individuals.

#16 Comment By Larry George On March 18, 2009 @ 1:27 pm

If there were a market for it, sell some of the college’s real estate (other than MHF, which is an obvious, but too large prospect) – I think the college may own some of the shopfront buildings on Spring Street, and may have other property in town that’s not being for it’s core mission (i.e., isn’t a college office or housing for junior or short-term appointees).

Pay cut for top administrators. And not building a huge package for the new president.

Increase or impose selective fees. For example, if it is not already done, impose a fee on students for having a car on campus; if it is done already, increase the amount. This may be good for the environment as well on the margin.

Define what are absolutely core mission expenses. Put everything else on a zero cost basis and force it to be justified. Build a budget from the skeleton outwards, in other words, viewing everything else as possible add-ons (and thinking in terms of layers of add-ons).

Look at meal participation levels. Consider eliminating one meal from the weekly schedule (and, yes, cutting back the staff’s hours a bit to take that into account). Perhaps pay several students to make a minimal amount of food (juice, apples and toast?) available in two locations to “cover” for students who can’t skip a meal.

Is there any chance that part of the forest or other college property could be thinned and the wood used for pellets for heating?

#17 Comment By Larry George On March 18, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

Charge admission for Amherst and other big games.

Hold out donation buckets at big “free” events.

Identify new ways that students or alumni could voluntarily help students (hopefully with an avoided cost benefit to the college) and work to set up programs and put them together. Local regional alumni and parents throughout the East Coast and in big Midwestern and West Coast cities can put up students (athletes, conference participants, etc.) and save the college the costs of paying for accommodations for them (they could put up professors and administrators as well). Look at travel costs — does it make more sense to send people out with a bag lunch or is it more efficient to give them lunch money?

#18 Comment By old-timer On March 18, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

Here’s another “modest proposal”:

Halve the size of the college by returning to an all-male student body.

This would allow Williams to reduce expenses in a number of ways:
1) Fraternities can return; the college can sell the row houses to fraternities, for real money, and also have lower housing and dining hall costs.
2) You only need about half of the current faculty. True, you cannot fire tenured faculty unless you eliminate their departments, but we could get rid of some departments and stop tenuring faculty in the departments that remain.
3) About half of the sports teams (and their coaches and expenses) would be gone.
4) Some buildings could be mothballed, as only half the dorm and class space would be needed.
5) Fewer administrators and staff would be needed as well.

I would imagine that the operating budget could be cut, with these measures, by about a third.

However, there are some costs to this measure. Sadly, Williams couldn’t win the Sears Cup any more (women’s teams contribute a lot of points to the total), and the campus would be relatively empty on weekends. It’s not clear how the endowment would ultimately be affected, but over the past 25 years male alumni have probably contributed more than female alumni, so things could work out well there, too.

So, overall, this change would give Williams both the cost savings it needs (without eliminating financial aid) and a distinctive profile among all the other top-tier liberal arts colleges.

#19 Comment By David On March 18, 2009 @ 6:38 pm

I think that it is important to separate out one-time savings (like selling piece of real estate) and annual savings that reduce the operating budget (like ending Williams in New York). These are very different issues. I recommend that Jeff just focus on savings to the operating budget.

Jeff is reasonable to ask us for more suggestions. Notice how few (large dollar) suggestions he has received? Savings money is hard, unless you are a misanthrope like me with a long list of desired cuts.

I am trying to identify a list of the most plausible cuts that could each save over $200,000 per year. I will post one of the items each day at noon during spring break. Then, people can chime in. (It would be great if people took a guess as to the cost savings involved. I have litte good data on this.) I am not in favor of all these cuts. Here is my current list (some stolen from Jeff/others). What am I missing?

End all one or two year positions; Close Williams College Museum of Art; Cancel The Bolin Fellows; Close The Boston Investment Office; Close Williams-In-Oxford; Cancel Questbridge; Eliminate Football; Close the Office of Campus Life; Stop Giving to Local Charity;

#20 Comment By jeffz On March 18, 2009 @ 6:53 pm

Larry George, as usual, we are of the same mindset — love the outside-the-box thinking.

I think closing Dodd MIGHT have a shot of fitting into the $200,000 category, but that might be way off. I really have no clue.

#21 Comment By PTC On March 18, 2009 @ 9:24 pm

#22 Comment By PTC On March 18, 2009 @ 9:26 pm

Larry- Willaims owns a lot of comercial property… not just these.. look at the rentals.


#23 Comment By anon2 On March 18, 2009 @ 10:22 pm

To flesh out David’s desire to separate one-time items vs. on-going items, it is important to note that selling real estate means giving up the stream of rental income from the real estate. If the college is leasing space at market rates, then it shouldn’t be losing money by being a landlord. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t be surprised if the college is not the most aggressive landlord in terms of charging high rents. Instead of just a profit motive, the college probably cares about the mix of stores in Williamstown.

Holding real estate in Williamstown can also raise a number of strategic development issues. If the college sells land, then the new owner can develop the land as he or she sees fit (subject, of course, to zoning board approval). All such real estate issues (either holding or selling) are fraught with all sorts of town-gown relationship issues. These concerns make selling local real estate assets quite different from selling off other assets held by the college (e.g., equities held in the endowment).

The same sort of stock/flow issue will come up with things like shutting down the childcare center, the Mystic program, the CDE, or the art history MA program. As an example, consider the childcare center. The amount saved from shutting it down is the difference between the revenues raised by charging users (primarily faculty and staff) and the costs of running the facility (including the opportunity cost of using the building for some other purpose). I wouldn’t be surprised if the college provides some amount of subsidy to the childcare center (in the sense that it loses money on running the center). I would be curious in the size of any such subsidy. In tough financial times, one might expect that the price charged by the center would reflect the cost of running the center.

An aside on the child care center: Over the past few years, the childcare center has had many unhappy customers. The unhappiness led to the college replacing the outsourced management of the center with directly-hired personnel. I don’t think the issue was that other center-based childcare providers in the Williamstown area are necessarily lots more expensive than the college’s center. I think the issue was mainly lots of staff turnover. The college also provided a new building for the center — but I think the building issue was separate from whether management was outsourced.

#24 Comment By David Kane On March 19, 2009 @ 3:32 am

Let me just add some points/comments to anon2.

1) I have heard old faculty members complain that the College sold a bunch of local real estate during the last economic hard times (around 1980) and that this later proved very stupid. I would hesitate to sell now. Conceptually, anon2 is correct that there is no real difference between the College’s investments in local real estate and the 10% or so of the endowment that is invested in real estate around the world. Sell the real estate in Rio before you sell the real estate in Williamstown.

2) The real boon-doggle of the Child Care Center (thanks to Marc Lynch?) is the $6 million that was spent on it. Total faculty pork. Alas, that money is gone, so anon2 is correct that we need to look at the actual cash flows for the Center. My bet is that the College charges too little and, probably, featherbeds too much. But, of course, without the data, it is tough to know. However, the College should no more run a child care center then it should run an apple orchard. Divest anything not directly related to its fundamental mission.

3) I do not think that anon2’s summary of the history of the child care center is correct, but this is a story that I never had time to dive into. Indeed, the way the story was reported was that a lot of parents really liked the guy who headed the center before and complained when he was forced out. It was never clear to me who did the forcing and why. See here:

Child Care of the Berkshires Executive Director Anne Nemetz-Carlson has fired Richard Leja, the longtime director of the Williams College Children’s Center, despite protests from some parents and two staff members who quit over the decision.

Leja was fired Friday afternoon. He had been employed by the Child Care of the Berkshires agency for 35 years, including 15 years as director of the day-care center here.

He was unavailable for comment Monday.

“The reasons that Anne Nemetz-Carlson gave for firing him do not resonate with the parents and staff who worked with him day in and day out,” wrote Ronadh Cox, a parent and Williams College professor, in an e-mail from Ireland yesterday. “There was never a more gentle, caring soul, with the best interests of the children firmly at heart. He gave decades of work to CCB. … After that, to summarily fire him in such a demeaning, insulting way was unwarranted.”

After the firing Friday, Nemetz-Carlson, whose office is in North Adams, called North Adams Police at 3:10 p.m. and said she thought that Leja had left her office “irate.” She said she was worried that he might “do harm to the building,” according to the police blotter. No police were dispatched in response to her call.

Williamstown resident Edward Gollin, whose daughter is enrolled in kindergarten at the center in the fall, criticized the letter to parents from Nemetz-Carlson.

“We don’t have any faith that review process was thorough,” said Gollin, also an assistant professor at Williams College. “We don’t find her letter convincing or comforting. We also don’t sense that the board of directors is fulfilling any real oversight over this agency.”

Gollin said he placed his daughter at the center based on the recommendations of other parents who love Leja’s leadership style. “Dick was one of the most gentle, kind people you’ll ever know,” he said. “He knew every child in the day care by name, and the children loved him.”

Professor Golin seems like a sensible guy so I think that anon2 may not have the real story. Do others?

The paranoid in me thinks that the faculty wanted the College to take over the center so that they could make the College spend a ton more money on it. That’s been the result, anyway.

#25 Comment By anon2 On March 19, 2009 @ 8:05 am

David —

I don’t know the child care center details — just my sense of the reason behind the change in management in roughly 2007/08. The firing that you cited may have made matters get worse not better (and I say that without commenting on whether they were good or bad in 2005). The complaints got worse after the firing and CCB was eventually replaced. The departure of two staff members (cited in the story that you quote) probably didn’t help matters in terms of staff turnover.

I don’t think that you are being paranoid in your assessment of the faculty preference for the College to take over management of the center. An outside contractor (especially one that operates multiple centers) would have much more of an eye toward the financial bottom line.

Your point #1 is certainly part of the lore of a previous round of real estate transactions associated with faculty housing. The perception of the early 80’s experience has shaped future such transactions (i.e., the development of the Pine Cobble area north of campus).

#26 Comment By anon On March 19, 2009 @ 10:06 am

Dick Leja put kids first, but Anne didn’t like him.
Before Dick Leja was fired, he was promoted to a half time position doing lead control in Berkshire country, a position he has no training or interest in. It was an opportunity for growth.
He was replaced with a manager who not only didn’t know the kids names, but failed to learn the parents names. The resulting management was terrible. Arbitrary rules were created without consulting staff or parents. The best teachers who had been there 10 plus years quit. Children were moved into rooms seemingly arbitrarily with little notice and little to no discussion with parents. I saw toddlers tackled by children 2.5 years older on the playground that were in the same classroom. The kid was sitting on the toddler. I told an indifferent teacher. I laughed at the content of the emails I got from the director. If you told that you were next in line for a spot in the center’s infant room, you would find out that a spot was later offered and declined by a colleague and then offered to someone else. Faculty removed their children from the center quickly. It was a stressful ordeal.
It did get a little better; I taught the gradually taught the new manager my name. It was still bad though. The worst management at a childcare center you can imagine.
When the college took over the center, we were told that costs would go up. No one cared. To have a childcare center on campus is fantastic. You can visit your infant at lunch time. You can pick them up in a jiffy if they are sick. It is great. You can focus on work. The new manager is amazing. It seems to me that people want to be there. I don’t feel bad at all about leaving my kid there.
In my opinion, I don’t think the faculty just wanted money thrown at the problem. I think they wanted an Anne-free center. They wanted the teachers to like their jobs. They wanted a manager who would listen to the teachers, the parents, and the kids. I think that is what they got.

#27 Comment By anon On March 19, 2009 @ 10:49 am

The college built the new childcare center before the college took over management. Was the new center built to fix faculty dissatisfaction with Childcare of the Berkshires management? Maybe you can remain paranoid.

#28 Comment By Larry George On March 19, 2009 @ 11:11 am

Nobody wants a repeat of the development of Pine Cobble. Still, if these are desperate times, all the college’s non-core-mission real estate must be looked at. Loss of control over development, loss of a reliable income stream, etc. are certainly issues that should be evaluated carefully with respect to any possible sale of any particular property. My point is that the entire set of assets should not be treated as a sacred cow. Some property may already be protected from undesirable developments, by town law or by covenants, to such an extent that the worry over a purchaser doing something really inappropriate with them (from the college’ perspective) should be miniscule. Some properties may turn out to be candidates for sale because they have good income streams, but others may turn out to be chronic underperformers or sources of actual net operating losses. Etc.

Re: Mystic. It is my understanding that the program is funded from tuition, a modest endowment that belongs to the program and was raised by program alumni to fund some financial aid that goes to fund students from colleges that differ from Williams in not making their aid portable to the program (some students have to take a leave from their colleges to attend because those colleges only allow use of their own study-away programs; typically, at the end of their study at Mystic, they present their work from the program to their home college and a faculty committee gives them transfer credit), program alumni contributions, grants, and the Seaport Foundation, and is run in an extremely low-budget manner. I don’t think there would be much of a cost saving to closing it. For example, the only financial aid Williams is funding there is for the Williams students who are there (usually 6 students a semester) and it would have to bear that discount in any event. Diana, a program alumna, wrote in EB in the past about how the Mystic program very successfully keeps its costs down. I don’t think it is not costing more per student than tuition/fees (set at the Williams level) plus the program’s other income from its own idiosyncratic sources.

#29 Comment By Ronit On March 19, 2009 @ 12:19 pm

Put in a wage cap of $100,000 for all College faculty and staff.

That should save you at least a couple million dollars per year. The College President’s salary alone can be reduced by $400,000/year without significantly affecting anything.

#30 Comment By 1980 On March 20, 2009 @ 10:48 pm

Eliminating study abroad would be a bad move from a competitive standpoint. Have you been to a college admissions info session lately? One of the standard topics discussed at every college is study abroad options. Students today want to study abroad – whether through a college sponsored program or otherwise. At most of the schools I looked at with my kids over the last five years, something like 30-40% of the junior class was going abroad. For small liberal arts colleges, I think the % is particularly high – students today do not want to spend all 4 years on campus (particularly at schools located in rural environments).

#31 Comment By 1980 On March 20, 2009 @ 10:50 pm

And before posters start chiming in saying that in today’s economy study abroad is too expensive and will become less popular, that is not the case. My older kid went abroad for a semester last year – and it cost less than it would have been for a semester “at home”.

#32 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On March 20, 2009 @ 11:35 pm

1980: FWIW my guess would be that study abroad is a financial win for the College– abroad programs probably cost 1/3 or less of a Williams education.

#33 Comment By aparent On March 21, 2009 @ 2:53 am

I think the College should announce a special “financial crisis” fundraising campaign wherein those who still have money (and jobs) can be prevailed upon to help buoy the coffers until the markets recover.

#34 Comment By frank uible On March 21, 2009 @ 6:53 am

Let Obama have a little time – he will do your job for you.

#35 Comment By sophmom On March 21, 2009 @ 10:48 pm

I do not believe that Study Abroad should be eliminated. It’s a highly desirable program for many students. However, I’m not sure how the college benefits from it financially. At least from my perspective, a semester in which my son is abroad, is a semester in which I do not pay tuition at Williams…

…which leaves me with several questions:

How is Study Abroad financed for students whose families can’t foot the bill? And are those temporary absences from the campus filled with students visiting Williams from elsewhere? If so, then what percentage of those students are paying the tuition?

#36 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On March 21, 2009 @ 11:19 pm

sophmom: as noted elsewhere, Study Abroad programs are usually “passed through” host institutions. Thus, a student at UC Berkeley will generally pay UCB tuition, and UCB will pay the study abroad program (with some provisions for travel expenses, etc).

Though UCB is likely less strict in its approval of programs than Williams, there was some controversy some years back about how much UCB was making in under arrangements– having some volume, someone at UCB had thought to negotiate price down with the bigger programs, and the amount UCB was taking in on some students abroad exceeded 50% of tuition/fees.

Williams, similarly, offers ‘approved’ programs and packages them at ‘Williams cost.’ YMMV on whether this is an inappropriate practice: students also get the aid of the study abroad programs/office, assistance before and after the programs, etc., that they wouldn’t get from another institution.

But, in short, Study Abroad was (current students can comment if arrangements have changed) ‘usually’ financed as a semester at Williams; students pay Williams tuition, Williams pays the third-party institution. A quick look at Oxford tuition/fees (about $15K/yr) suggests this is always going to be a financial win for Williams, unless Williams is letting people go to UCL or other clearly for-profit programs– tuition at the Sorbonne is less (as I remember) and something like Charles University…; (I don’t know if any institution has gotten sophisticated enough to realize that some of its students will qualify for EU citizenship and fees…; in some programs, that will be ‘zero’ or under $1K/semester… )

Then there are those larger institutions, such as George Mason, which actively ‘purchased’ campuses and faculties abroad when the dollar was high… while this was a ‘diversity and internationalization’ decision, it was surely also a financial one…

Actually, international students can study in Czech at Charles University ‘free of charge,’ regardless of citizenship; so a study-abroad program in Prague, packaging support and a mixture of English and Czech courses, is not paying for the Czech courses.

#37 Comment By sophmom On March 21, 2009 @ 11:33 pm


That isn’t the case at present. The bill is paid directly to the school hosting sponsoring the program, not through Williams. Which means no tuition paid to Williams for the time he is away.

This may not be the case for all programs, but it is for the ones my son has investigated.

#38 Comment By kthomas On March 21, 2009 @ 11:51 pm


Briefly (and I mean briefly; I may be wrong) it looks like some of the official Williams-sponsored-and-created programs, (Williams-Kyoto) are still paid through Williams; and one can also submit a “pink petition” to the CAS to approve any program (some of which are standing arrangements and thus “slam dunks”) and pay directly to the institution (etc).

So by no means does Williams seem to be “milking” the arrangements; it wouldn’t surprise me if Williams tends to the opposite; and I’d need few spreadsheet from Charles Toomajian, at least, to sort out the impacts on the College — one of which is simply, beds (for instance: if the College overadmitted in the 90s, it then sought to get more juniors abroad; or if more juniors went abroad than anticipated, it could be made up off the wait list– and when it came down to one or two in enrollment, and making proposals about moving entries or turning Mission into 1st-year housing, one rule was “whatever you do, don’t lose a bed.”) {…}

#39 Comment By sophmom On March 22, 2009 @ 12:04 am

It seems to me, that unless a more classic “exchange” system is used to fill the beds emptied by Study Abroad students, then the college is more likely losing money thru offering this program…especially if Study Abroad is more typically undertaken by the kids paying full tuition. It also seems to me, that it wouldn’t be difficult to fill those spots with International kids who could afford a semester at Williams.

#40 Comment By eyetolduso On March 22, 2009 @ 12:59 am

Finance and Study Away
No tuition is paid to Williams College when students study away. Tuition and fees are paid directly to the study away program. Financial aid eligibility can be applied to the student’s study away program; the financial aid process remains the same as though attending Williams. Students must attend the financial aid meeting for study away students in February of their sophomore year, keep the office of financial aid informed of plans to study away, and complete all necessary forms. A separate Study Away Budget Proposal is submitted when study away plans and costs are firm. Financial aid students receiving credit for study away programs are eligible for aid based on actual study away costs, up to the comparable cost of attending Williams.

#41 Comment By kthomas On March 22, 2009 @ 1:19 am

^^^ link? http://www.williams.edu/dean/safaq.php

Do you know if this is now the case for Williams co-ordinate(d) programs, such as Williams-Kyoto? (If so, I’d guess that Williams takes an administrative support hit).

For FinAid students, seems a win on it’s face– Williams almost always pays less– except FinAid dollars are not really “real dollars,” as they cycle back into the budget if paid to Williams; if paid elsewhere, they are a debit to FinAid’s budget which produces no corresponding income; so possibly a loss (even a big loss).

#42 Comment By sophmom On March 22, 2009 @ 1:24 am


I would be interested in seeing all of that penciled out, but it seems in any case, that the program could not be a financial gain for the college. They are either losing the tuition of the paying student, or financing the aid student.

However…if they could fill those temporarily empty beds with full boat internationals interested in doing a semester at Williams…then, by golly, that could produce a gain rather than a loss. How to arrange that sort of program is the question…

#43 Comment By anon2 On March 22, 2009 @ 8:31 am


I’m not sure the “fill the beds” argument makes sense. If the number of juniors who go abroad is fairly steady, then the College can just factor those empty beds into the overall size of each class (and the scale of everything else at the College — e.g., the number of courses taught, the size of the faculty, etc.). I expect the number is pretty predictable and is accounted for in current planning.

Dartmouth explicitly uses a similar sort of planning. Sophomores take classes in the summer in exchange for taking a term off during the year (not necessarily studying anywhere since they don’t need college credits to graduate). This system was originally put in place when Dartmouth expanded its number of students as it went coed. From a logistics standpoint, my perception is that the Dartmouth system has a number of advantages — e.g., smoothing out the use of dorms, etc. Plus, summer is a really nice time to be in Hanover — or Williamstown for that matter.

#44 Comment By eyetolduso On March 22, 2009 @ 9:40 am

I think the math is fairly simple at least on the revenue side. At any point in time there are aprox 300-350 fewer students paying tuition to Williams than are enrolled in Williams. Full pay students are paying the cost of study away to another school and finaid students are paying their portion to the other school as if attending Williams and Williams is paying the rest to the other school. Almost no one does study away at Williams so there is no offset on the revenue side. I wonder if the student faculty ratio’s in US News take this into account? This is one of the reasons the cost to educate per student is so high, you really only have 1850 (aprox) students paying tuition. If you want to add tuition paying students who will not degrade the intellectual ambiance, simply keep these 300-350 at home. There is no arbitrage as some have suggested in Williams collecting the difference between regular Williams tuition and study away tuition as far as I can figure it out.

#45 Comment By 1980 On March 22, 2009 @ 11:19 am

I think whether or not the “home college” is in the middle of the payment stream for study abroad students varies by school. My older kid’s home college did not do this, and we paid the study away college directly.

If the empty beds are a problem for Williams, it could always re-join the “12 College Exchange” program. This was a very popular program during my time at Williams. I’m not sure why Williams stopped participating in it.