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4: Cancel Questbridge

The Questbridge program does not cost more than $200,000 directly. (I am unsure of the exact cost to Williams but think that it is something like $5,000 per student enrolled. ) But the Questbridge students themselves, many of whom would never have applied to Williams were it not for the Questbridge connection, are very expensive, almost by definition. Cancelling Questbridge would cause fewer poor students to apply to Williams. Some of those students would be replaced by other poor students. But others would be replaced by non-poor students. Williams can stiff officially (and honestly) claim to be need-blind even if it no longer pays extra money to steer more poor applicants in our direction. (A similar effect could come from guiding admissions officers to spend more time at rich schools (especially internationally) and less time at poor schools and/or with poor students. But, since there is no specific program that one can point to on that regard, I’ll leave it aside for now.

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#1 Comment By Parent ’12 On March 26, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

Dave- I was going to give you the benefit of the doubt & read this entire opinion. But, I’m sorry you lost me when I got to “stiff officially.”

Now, even though this is most likely a typographical error, it still raises the question of stiff whom?

#2 Comment By JeffZ On March 26, 2009 @ 12:21 pm


#3 Comment By rory On March 26, 2009 @ 12:47 pm

what Jeff and parent’12 said times 100.

I will personally make sure to route more than 200k in donations over my lifetime from williams to questbridge or a different college were williams to do this.

again, the idea that the rich (williams) should save their position as extremely rich during an economic crisis by screwing over the poor has to be the most embarrassingly selfish idea i’ve ever seen. trying to find a back door around being need blind by depressing the number of applications from low-income students is a despicable idea.

ALSO, admissions officers do generally spend most of their time at rich schools. Even/especially when abroad. Even when colleges are actively trying to recruit students from low-income backgrounds, the admissions system still works on a basic model that was designed for elite high schools. This is not at all to disparage or doubt the work williams’ admissions office is doing to expand access to the school, but to note that your comments about admissions in this post are absurd.

#4 Comment By JG On March 26, 2009 @ 2:27 pm

I will personally make sure to route more than 200k in donations over my lifetime from williams to questbridge or a different college were williams to do this.

Same here. I also agree that saying you want to “cause fewer poor students to apply to Williams” is embarassing, obnoxious, and not reflective of the opinions of most anyone connected to Williams I’ve ever met.

Can we make the dislaimer flash or increase in size or something whenever Dave posts, just to be sure no unsuspecting prospective student thinks that Williams is full of elitists assholes who think “poor students” shouldn’t be allowed to go to Williams?

#5 Comment By JG On March 26, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

Sorry to double post here. Since I can feel the self righteous and defensive comment from Dave simmering, if it makes you feel better Dave, read that as “not as many poor students should be allowed to go to Williams.” Better?

#6 Comment By JeffZ On March 26, 2009 @ 2:35 pm

JG may be on to something … either that, or whenever DK posts on certain pre-ordained topics (we all know what those would be), clicking on said post automatically redirects one to HarvardBlog, in recogniztion that such post is emanating from his other academic affiliation ….

#7 Comment By typical kane On March 26, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

The one and only value that I get out of this site is updates on Williams. I could easily do without the Kaneblog affliction for casting out all the poor and minority students and professors and his weird and possibly unhealthy obsession with Erin Burnett and other Eph-related women like alumni wives. (And no, I don’t think it would be better if we had more female bloggers here to drool over Eph men.)

I think a lot of alums would also withhold donations if Williams moved away from efforts to recruit lower income students. Questbridge is just one of the ways that Williams tries to offset the tremendous advantages that wealthy students have when it comes to getting into top colleges.

Isn’t there a way to start a different Williams alumni online community, one that is still separate but with saner, less regressive bloggers? Someone tell me that there are enough progressive alums who care about Williams to do this…

#8 Comment By sophmom On March 26, 2009 @ 6:18 pm

(And no, I don’t think it would be better if we had more female bloggers here to drool over Eph men.)

What does this mean?

(If TK@7 could answer it, great. Or, if anyone else gets it, please enlighten me.)

#9 Comment By kthomas On March 26, 2009 @ 7:15 pm

^^ I think the OP means that having female authors post drooling (over) pictures of “Eph men” would not be “corrective,” NOT that it wouldn’t be generally better to have more of the more intelligent sex around.

#10 Comment By kthomas On March 26, 2009 @ 11:37 pm

@#7: In my official position here, I would like to note that post 7 employs a fake/non-existent email address, and is obviously inflammatory and ad hominem.

While everyone here seems to tend towards {…}, especially in the past days; and while there is content to the post; I see no reason that anonymous posts, which no identifiable method of communicating with the author, and of questionable quality and intent; should not find themselves treated as scrawlings on the bathroom wall, and subject to painting over in the form of deletion at the editors’ discretion.

#11 Comment By David On March 27, 2009 @ 4:33 am

Just as a reality check for some readers, consider some numbers:

Fiscal Year 2004
Beginning endowment: $1.1 billion
Financial aid expense: $18,543,227

Fiscal Year 2008
Beginning endowment: $1.9 billion
Financial aid expense: $29,284,650

Fiscal Year 2010
Beginning endowment: $1.1 billion (estimated)
Financial aid expense: ????

All those in favor of continue prividing financial aid on 2008 levels, even though we are, at best, only as rich as we were in 2004, should explain where they are going to find the extra $11 million.

If the answer is to reduce financial aid spending, then how would this be done?

Increase the percentage of full pay students? Cut financial aid across the board either by eliminating no-loans or “gapping” and meeting less than full need? Cut international financial aid?

It is a pleasing fantasy to assume that, even in the worst financial crisis in the last 50 years, Williams can keep spending like the bubble never burst. Alas, we can’t.

Also, some of the comments above are naive in the extreme in their status quo bias and willful inability to understand how the world is rather than how they would like it to be. Let me count the ways:

1) Was Williams a horrible place in, say, 2002, with our doors shut to poor students? Not that I recall. (And not that I recall JG or Rory complaining about, much less threatening to withhold contributions.) But, surprisingly, Williams did not participate in Questbridge back then. The inhumanity!

2) JG and Rory are up in arms about this change, but I don’t recall them complaining too loudly, much less threatening, about the quota against international students. (And a main reason, if not the main reason for the quota is that international students are so poor.)

In other words, if a student applies from Mexico and Williams rejects him even though he is far better than some other accepted students, that’s A-OK for JG and Rory. But, if the same student moves to the US at 15 and only applies to Williams because of Quiestbridge, it would be a crime against humanity to cancel Questbridge, even though that same student is still free to apply (for free!) to Williams.

3) Best part of all this is how easily the College fools the feel-good do-gooders amongst us. There is no good evidence that the College is any more socio-economically diverse than it was a decade ago. (Which does suggest that cancelling Questbridge might not save hat much money, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

For the record, I’ll note that I have been a fan of Questbridge for many years. See my many previous posts on the topic. But, unlike some, I am grown up enough to be willing to make some hard choices.

Until you come up with a specific set of cuts that you would favor, it is hard to treat your opinion as any more substantive than the mewlings of children.

#12 Comment By JeffZ On March 27, 2009 @ 7:23 am

Again, remember David that a substantial chunk of the increased financial aid spending is necessitated by the rapid rise in tuition over that time period … so while financial aid spending is far higher, so is the tuition revenue that is being discounted. The figure to look at is revenues, in other words, tuition minus fin aid expenses, from 2004 to 2010, to determine how much needs to be cut …

(and again, I’d suggest that it is not crazy for Williams, like many other schools are doing, to dip deeper into the endowment for a year or two at the very peek of this crisis, with the reasonable assumptions that things will improve in a few years and the endowment will rebound to some degree; if they don’t, the school will not have depleted its resources so radically that it can’t make more permanent cuts reflective of a forever-changed economic landscape).

#13 Comment By anon2 On March 27, 2009 @ 7:45 am

Need-blind admission is a principle and one that might be worth holding sacrosanct. The amount of funding aimed at supporting this principle is a practice — one that has probably increased over time. It might be painful to pull back in this area, but one shouldn’t be blind to the financial consequences and potential costs. As DK points out, the need-blind admission principle already comes with a big caveat: foreign students go in a separate and limited pool. Where does principle end and practice begin?

The specific issue is QuestBridge. The general issue is the amount of money spent on marketing, especially marketing aimed at promoting diversity. One could argue for keeping QuestBridge if it is cost effective (highly visible, nice set of partners to hang out with, subsidized by foundations). At the same time, one could argue for a substantial reduction in marketing costs. I have no idea of the relative costs and benefits of different marketing approaches.

Consider what other schools might be doing. Some will eliminate need blind admissions. Fiscal austerity will lead others to cut back on marketing (both general and specific to low-income families). Others will reverse course on their no-loan policies. If Williams makes no adjustment, it might actually make great strides in adding diversity.

Before celebrating too much, consider the impact on the budget. To be concrete, suppose in four years, the fraction of students with financial aid is up (and not just because of the economy) and average revenue per student (relative to expectation) is $2,500 lower. With a student body of 2,000, this adds $5 m. to the annual budget gap. (At a 5% avail rate, this cost could be funded by just adding $100 m. to the endowment — so get out those checkbooks.) This seems like a big change but DK pointed out that the aid budget increased by $10 between 2004 and 2008. Without a surge in the endowment, other budget cutting would be needed. It can’t all take the form of “cut the salaries of the overpaid” since after several rounds of cuts, they won’t be overpaid.

#14 Comment By jeffz On March 27, 2009 @ 8:03 am

Speaking of admissions and marketing of Williams, some interesting observations here from Eph alum / Amherst admissions director Tom Parker:


#15 Comment By rory On March 27, 2009 @ 10:59 am

your bait is ridiculously pathetic, david. I’ll just select the gems and let others decide whether or not you painted a fair picture of our stand.

“But, unlike some, I am grown up enough to be willing to make some hard choices”

“Also, some of the comments above are naive in the extreme in their status quo bias and willful inability to understand how the world is rather than how they would like it to be”

“In other words, if a student applies from Mexico and Williams rejects him even though he is far better than some other accepted students, that’s A-OK for JG and Rory”

“Best part of all this is how easily the College fools the feel-good do-gooders amongst us”

Honestly David, go **** yourself. you make up the rules, call us names, and assume beliefs we’ve never spoken about.

#16 Comment By JeffZ On March 27, 2009 @ 11:15 am

Rory, surprised you omitted the “mewlings” of children line … I particularly enjoyed that one

#17 Comment By rory On March 27, 2009 @ 11:47 am

holy crap, i didn’t read that one. Of course, by then my eyes had glossed over and i had reverted back to my child-like state in which i cry for milk, throw temper-tantrums, take naps during recess, and mewl (is that a verb?) over the philosophical duty of wealthy colleges to continue to (try to) provide equal access during a recession.

the most amusing thing to me–talking of mewlings–is that ephblog’s attempts to influence or change williams’ modus operandi are the perfect example of a soft whimper. really, a blog is going to change williams or convince anyone in power to make cut X instead of cut Y? lol. does that mean i’m mewling over an improper mewling? and does david’s bitchfest count as a mewling over my mewling about his mewling? How many mewlings can we mewl?

Yes, n, how many mewls must a blogger mewl, before you can call him a mewler? The answer, my friend, is mewling in the wind…the answer is mewling in the wind.

*ponders what Swart’s photoshop would look like*

#18 Comment By Dick Swart On March 27, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the canon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 2. 7. 139-167


#19 Comment By Larry George On March 27, 2009 @ 12:46 pm

Dave’s postings and readers’ reactions to his style may be obscuring some hard truths I think we need to face.

Everything should be on the table. The decision makers may be decide to take A, B, and C off the table, but they should look at everything. Not looking at X, Y, or Z is going to make fat build up there. This is a time for making sure there is no fat, no gravy, anywhere in the budget. Each expenditure, program, and function needs to be examined. It is efficient? Is it necessary? Can we do better by doing this a different way? How does this fit into the whole mix? Questbridge may not be the most effective way of recruiting from lower socio-economic students (how much is each student who matriculates through the program costing Williams? what is the graduation rate — a question that goes to whether the matches are good and whether the recruited students are happy and are getting what they need — and the satisfaction rate?). Bizarre though the proposal might sound, it could be far more efficient to offer an out-and-out bounty, perhaps open only to current or recent Ephs who make a “socio-ec” match for the college (but that might not be acceptable for other reasons). We need to be looking at new ideas and to e questioning old assumptions and ways of dong business.
Again, creating sacred cows may blind us or make us complacent and almost certainly will lead to wasted funds (as there will be no change in mindset from the gravy days in the protected areas).

#20 Comment By Larry George On March 27, 2009 @ 12:56 pm

Re: above — sorry for my sticky keyboard.

#21 Comment By Parent ’12 On March 27, 2009 @ 2:53 pm

Jeff @14 — That was an interesting article.

Apart from Parker speculating about the effect of the new additional essay for the Williams App, as part of the cause for a decrease in applications, the writer of the article included this:

“Due to budget cuts this year, the Williams admissions office has travelled significantly less than in previous years. According to Parker, this decreased advertising of the college potentially played a large role in the decreasing number of applicants.”

Perhaps, Questbridge helped offset the gap in the search for talented students.

#22 Comment By M. Esa Seegulam ’06 On March 27, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

Oh. My. Allah.

I cringed when I read this post.