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Data From the Provost

Huge props to Provost Bill Lenhart and the rest of the Williams Administration for making this excellent collection of data publicly available. (Hat tip to Will Slack ’11.)

1) There is so much good material here, I don’t even know where to begin. I will devote next week to an item-by-item discussion. Contain your excitement.

2) At first glance, this data looks highly detailed and comprehensive. I could imagine that this is almost exactly the same as the information that the Trustees are looking at this week-end. True?

3) As longtime readers know, I (and others at EphBlog) have been complaining/campaigning/cajoling for years in order to encourage Williams to be more transparent. This is exactly the sort of material that we had in mind. Anything (or, almost anything) that is presented at a faculty meeting or to the Trustees ought to be made public.

4) The more information that members of the College community have about Williams, the more informed their opinions will be. More informed opinions lead to better discussion and debate, which leads to better decision-making and results. But that is too wordy! EphBlog needs a handy slogan which encapsulates this argument. Suggestions? Transparency for excellence?

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#1 Comment By hwc On January 22, 2010 @ 3:14 pm

Great stuff! Thanks to Williams for providing it.

Caution: There are some major discrepancies in these tables. For example, the second chart (Total Financial Assets and their Uses) shows asset use (endowmement spending) of just over $80 million for Fiscal Year 2008-09. This matches the number I used in my spreadsheet ($81 million) which I calculated based on percentages stated in the Financial Report. So far so good.

However (sigh):

The next to last chart (Revenue by Category), shows asset use (endowment spending) for Fiscal Year 2008-2009 of $94 million.

I’m not sure what to make of the discrepancy. The Revenue Chart may be providing the upper ceiling on endowment spending, rather than what was actually spent. Or, it may include some capital spending not included in the operating expenses (Grinnell does this — or did before they suspended the capital spending).

Note also that these charts all treat financial aid as an expense rather than as a revenue discount as it is treated in the College’s annual reports. No big deal, just watch it when trying to compare.

#2 Comment By hwc On January 22, 2010 @ 10:39 pm

Tangentially, I thought it was interesting that documents the commentary on class sizes acknowledges how the tutorials have been used to “game” the USNEWS data. In reality, a tutorial is one professor teaching the same course to ten students — IMO, probably the optimal configuration for an undergrad seminar.

According to the commentary, by having the professor meet seperately with subsets of 2 students at a time, Williams reports this as 5 class sessions instead of one, thus multiplying the number of small classes dramatically with a five time multiplier in reporting each “tutorial” course.

Why didn’t they go for one on one tutorials? USNEWS requires a miniumum of two students to count a class section. Colleges are instructed to not report any courses that one one professor meeting with a single student (such as a directed reading course).

#3 Comment By PSCImajor On January 22, 2010 @ 10:44 pm

@hwc: While I appreciate your cynicism, having taken both an independent study course and two tutorials, I would argue that in many ways, the tutorials were the better – having a fellow student with whom to interact is a great way to learn and to improve your own work.

#4 Comment By hwc On January 22, 2010 @ 11:20 pm

I would argue that six to ten students and a professor is probably the optimum. That way, you are aren’t a looser if your one tutorial partner is a dullard. But, that’s neither here nor there. I’m not against tutorials, I just thought it was interesting to see the admission that the system “games” the class size reporting.

BTW, how many times a week and for how long does each pair of tutorial students meet with their professor?

#5 Comment By Diana On January 23, 2010 @ 9:32 am

hwc:

BTW, how many times a week and for how long does each pair of tutorial students meet with their professor?

Always (?) once a week, usually for between 75-90 minutes, if I recall correctly. I think tutorials use the longer blocks (75 minutes) already built into the schedule.

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#7 Comment By hwc On January 24, 2010 @ 12:47 am

Amherst did a Friday dump of their 2009 Annual Financial Reports. I’m still wading through it, although it is nearly impossbile to figure out what they spent.

They have dug themselves a very deep hole. They bought their way out of $50 million in cash call commitments, but still have $427 million that must be paid out by the end of 2013. That’s some cash, baby.

In addition to borrowing $100 million for operating cash last year (at 5.875% interest), they also liquidated more than $100 million of stocks to raise more cash. They are now down to just 16% of the endowment in publicly traded stocks — half of their 30% target. That means they missed the run-up in stock prices.

It also means that they would have to liquidate every penny of stocks and bond investments to cover their cash calls.