Let’s spend three days discussing the College’s new fundraising campaign: Teach It Forward: The Campaign for Williams. The main webpage is here. Today is Day 2.

Williams will seek $150 million in endowment support for financial aid in the campaign—to ensure affordability for low- and middle-income students, as well for international students, and therein sustain the socioeconomic diversity of the student body. Financial aid is the campaign’s single largest fundraising priority.

1) This is good to see, but I have been burned before in (naively?) believing that international enrollment is a high priority for Falk/Williams. The single biggest decision that Williams faces is: How many international students to enroll? I think that, immediately, Williams should go to 15% and then quickly to 20%, with a probably long-term goal of 50%.

2) Just what does it mean to raise $150 million for financial aid? Is there really some financial aid lock-box which contains dollars that can only be used for financial aid? I have my doubts. Money is fungible. And the College has a history of using money given for financial aid (at least for international students) for other purposes. I would be happier to see a more concrete pledge: Williams will offer financial aid packages at least as generous as those offered by Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford. See this recent comment:

[T]he difference between aid provided by Williams and its top liberal arts college peers and that provided by the top universities is hard to overcome.

My child is a high school senior and realistic applicant to the top schools. Based on our income, Williams expects we can contribute roughly $38,000 toward college annually. We cannot. Harvard and Yale expect us to contribute slightly less than $20,000 per year – a stretch, but one we can make. I wish the difference in cost between Williams and Yale weren’t roughly $80,000 over the course of an undergraduate degree.

Williams should match the financial aid offered to any admitted student who is also admitted by Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford. High school seniors might very well choose HYPS over Williams, but they shouldn’t do so because of financial aid.

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