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Sixty Thou to Live with Cows

In 2015-2016, it will cost $63,290 to attend Williams. Comments:

1) Full e-mail from President Falk is below the break. (Thanks, as always, to our student sources.) What do readers think about Falk’s tone?

2) The class song for the great class of 1988 featured this chorus: “Sixty thou, to love with cows.” Of course, in that era, the total 4 year cost of Williams was around $60,000. For the class of 2018, it will be more than $250,000. At this rate, the class of 2048 will be paying more than $1,000,000 for their Williams education. I don’t see anything that will prevent this from happening. Do you?

Williams is a luxury good and few luxury goods are hurt by raising their prices. Indeed, among luxury good buyers, high prices are often perceived (correctly?!) as a sign if quality. I expect Williams to increase its price by more than the rate of inflation for decades to come. What would stop it from doing so?

From: Adam Falk
Date: Tue, Mar 10, 2015 at 9:18 AM
Subject: Comprehensive Fee for 2015-16
To: x@williams.edu

To the Classes of 2016, 2017, and 2018,

I am writing with information about the college’s financial planning for the coming year.

The money we spend on your educations comes from three main sources: what we take from the endowment, what you and your families pay, and what we receive as gifts for current use. To maintain the buying power of the endowment in perpetuity, we spend each year 5% of its value. That money plus gifts for current use represent 57% of our revenue.

Virtually all the rest comes from student charges. After projecting revenue from endowment and gifts, we calculate that to provide a Williams-quality education in the coming year will require a comprehensive fee that grows by 3.6%.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Tuition $49,780
Board 6,530
Room 6,690
Activities and Residential House Fees 290

Total $63,290

This total falls in the middle of those at peer institutions.

Our financial aid program will remain among the strongest anywhere, and if you think that you may be among those who now qualify for aid for the first time, please contact the financial aid office as soon as possible.

We’re fortunate at Williams to have the support of our relatively large endowment and of the exceptional generosity of our alumni, parents, and friends. At the same time, we understand the financial sacrifices that your families make to provide you with an education. In a recent letter similar to this one, I thanked them again for those sacrifices, and I suggest that this might be good moment for you to do the same.

Sincerely yours,
Adam Falk