Williams is promoting a simpler financial aid calculator. This article merits three days of discussion. Today is Day 1.

A simplified financial-aid calculator — much easier to use than the federally mandated calculators that most colleges create — has begun spreading beyond Wellesley College, where it began two years ago.

The spread, to the University of Virginia and Williams College, starting Monday, raises the possibility that more colleges will follow and that information on actual college costs will become more widely available. Currently, many low- and middle-income families are unaware of how much financial aid is potentially available to them, research has found.

Maybe. The whole notion that there are tens of thousands of students with elite college credentials who are unaware of financial aid realities is, mostly, untrue. These large numbers come for defining elite to include SAT scores below the Williams average and by ignoring high school grades. The vast majority of poor high school students who don’t know what a great deal Williams is have zero chance of being accepted.

Here are the two calculators. There is a great story to be written by the Record which would highlight the types of families that are most screwed over by Williams in the financial aid process. These families would look identical to the first (simpler) calculator but then end up with very different aid packages once the second calculation has done its best to punish frugality.

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