Is Williams a dramatic outlier in international admissions and financial aid? Perhaps:

Pomona and Swarthmore are not need-blind for international admissions. Their percentage of internationals qualifying for aid is roughly the same as the percentage for US students. More importantly, the average net price paid (after aid), is reasonably close for both US and international students. Amherst and Williams are another story. 89% and 93% of their internationals qualify for aid. The impact on net price paid is stunning. Amherst internationals pay, on average, $6255 per year. Williams is even lower at just $4996 per year. That’s not even enough to cover the cost of the food they eat in the dining halls!

It’s hard to imagine how their admissions offices could do so poorly in attracting tuition-paying internationals. Let’s face it, the international students who ace an IB program in a top feeder school and qualify for admission to these colleges are not living in grass huts. So either the admissions offices are intentionally looking for no-pay internationals (concealed athletic scholarships?) or there are serious flaws in the aid formula for wealthier (but less than full-fare) internationals. …

Pomona (2008-09)
----------------------------------------	
    4%	% international students		
   48%	% receiving aid (international)	
   52%	% receiving aid (US)	
29,420 	Avg net price paid (international)	
32,131 	Avg net price paid (US)	
		
Swarthmore (2009-10)
----------------------------------------		
    7%	% international students		
   57%	% receiving aid (international)	
   53%	% receiving aid (US)		
25,184 	Avg net price paid (international)	
33,569 	Avg net price paid (US)	

Amherst (2009-10)	
----------------------------------------	
    8%	% international students		
   89%	% receiving aid (international)	
   54%	% receiving aid (US)			
 6,255 	Avg net price paid (international)	
31,035 	Avg net price paid (US)

Williams (2009-10)
----------------------------------------	
    7%	% international students
   93%	% receiving aid (international)
   49%	% receiving aid (US)
 4,996 	Avg net price paid (international)
33,852 	Avg net price paid (US)

1) Stunning analysis. Read the whole thing. Does anyone know what is going on? (See UDPATE below.) Possibilities:

a) Williams takes its committment to Need Blind admissions seriously. Given that there are many more poor smart students than rich smart students outside the US, it is hardly surprising that the vast majority of the admitted applicants have no money. Key comparison: Difference of GPAs between internationals and domestic students at Swarthmore/Pomona versus the same differrence at Williams.

b) Williams does not do as good a job as it should it getting money out of international students. On occasion, one reads claims on College Confidential that students hide assets/income. That is obviously much easier for internationals. Do Williams policies/practices differ from Swarthmore/Pomona?

c) Williams, because of its shallow fixation on socio-ec 1 admissions, gives dramatic preferences among international applicants to those whose parents don’t have college degrees. In other words, the top of the international applicant pool is strong. But, instead of taking a reasonable cross section of the entire pool, Williams focuses on students whose parents did not go to college. They are just as (almost as?) strong as the other candidates, so why not? Morty gets to brag about how he has increased the percentage from 13% to 21%. Every feels all warm and fuzzy and inclusive.

The key problem is that there is a big correlation between parents-did-not-attend-college and poverty. So, even though Williams is not favoring poor internationals per se, it is ending up with an international student cohort that is dominated by students who need a full ride.

2) Speaking as the person who first exposed and then railed against the quota for international students at Williams, I hope that I can claim the moral high ground when I argue that this stinks. There is no way that Williams can, in good conscious, demand loans from US students while simultaneously (seeming) to offer a dramatically better deal to international students without also enrolling much smarter, more academically serious students. (If it turns out that Swarthmore/Pomona enroll a bunch of stupid but rich internationals, then I retract this complaint.)

3) Might this already be changing? Recall Joe Foster’s ’90 news that two of the 11 international students admitted early decision were from Daewon. The average student from there could afford at least $10,000 per year for Williams, and probably more.

4) My policy preference is the same as before. Dramatically increase the number of international students, but focus efforts on elite English-immersion schools like Daewon. This will, naturally, lead to an international student profile that, in terms of financial aid, matches the US student profile. Williams will a) Save millions of dollars, b) Increase the average academic quality of its student body, and c) Become a more global, and truly diverse, institution.

UPDATE: D’oh! I had assumed that Swarthmore and Pomona were need blind for international students. As HWC points out, they are not. My mistake! So, the obvious explanation has nothing to do with airports and warm weather. Swarthmore and Pomona let in a bunch of rich, but less smart, international students. Amherst and Williams are need blind and find, unsurprisingly, that if you ignore family income in admissions, the vast majority of the best international applicants are very poor. Apologies for not figuring his out sooner!

The key comparison: How much weaker are the international students at Swarthmore/Pomona compared to the international students at Williams/Amherst?

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