Is Dartmouth Following Williams’ lead?

We will continue to provide free tuition and no loan expectations for students with family incomes of $75,000 a year or less. For financial-aid recipients from families with incomes above $75,000, we will be re-instituting a loan requirement of approximately $2,500-$5,500 a year beginning with the Class of 2015, whose members will enter in fall 2011.

1) Exercise for the reader: Calculate the marginal tax rate of a family making $74,000. Will there really be a bright-shining line at $75,000 exactly?

2) $2,500-$5,500 is a huge range. Just how is that calculated? I thought (corrections welcome) that Williams, back when it required loans, just set a maximum. If you needed $1,000 — after accounting for your savings, EFC and so on — then that is what you borrowed. If you needed $10,000, then Williams gave you a grant of X to bring the loan down to the maximum, which was at around $3,000 (?) a few years ago.

So, describing a range rather than a maximum is interesting. Comments? It certainly provides Dartmouth with a lot “flexibility” in matching offers from other schools.

3) How do you think Williams will structure its program? How do you think it should? The more faculty members that I talk to (and I have communicated with almost 10 on the topic), the more responsive I become to their concerns about “rich” families getting a deal from Williams, about families “scamming” the system. The current mechanism is awful imprecise and suspect, as we have documented in great detail.

Up till now, I have been a big defender of the system purely on competitive grounds. I want the best students to choose Williams. If Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford/Dartmouth/Amherst offer a better deal to student X, she is likely to take it. In that world, Williams would only win the yield battle among rich kids. Every non-rich student would turn us down for one of those schools.

Solution? Cut the Gordian Knot of need-blind admissions, which is a Big Lie anyway. No elite school is truly need-blind since all feature development admits. The whole scheme is sleazy and ripe for abuse. Instead, admit that Williams is family-income aware, but then match any financial aid offer from an elite school. This would focus our financial aid spending on precisely the students who deserve it. Students not talented/desirable enough to get an admissions offer from another elite school would still be offered a financial aid package, but it would feature 1990-levels of generosity: tens of thousands in loans.

What say our readers to such a plan?


Separately, I [Dartmouth President Kim] have joined Carol Folt, Acting Provost and Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, and Steven Kadish, Senior Vice President, in donating 10 percent of our salaries to be split between the Dartmouth College Fund and a hardship fund. The hardship fund will assist those with financial difficulties not met through our other programs such as layoff packages or our staff loan program.

Morty was never the sort of guy who would donate 10% of his salary. Is Bill Wagner?

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