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Tuition Update

All campus e-mail about tuition:

To the Classes of 2017, 2018, and 2019,

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

The money we spend on your education every year 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 sustain the endowment in perpetuity, each year we aim to spend no more than 5 percent of its value. That money plus gifts for current use represent 59 percent 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 3.46 percent. That’s the ninth year in a row of declining rates of increase.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Tuition $51,490
Board 6,760
Room 6,930
Activities and Residential House Fees 300

Total $65,480

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


1) “That’s the ninth year in a row of declining rates of increase.” Could only be written by a physicist! So, although the first derivative is positive, the second is negative? Or is it different in dollars as opposed to percentages? Help us out, Eph Math Mavens!

2) Williams is a luxury good. Once you realize that fact, it is obvious that bragging about low rates of increase in the sticker price is stupid. You never read about Gucci or Prada doing that! Indeed, perhaps the single most costly financial mistake by a NESCAC school was Middlebury’s tuition “freeze” five years ago. Williams is smart, at least, to avoid that mistake. Virtue signally can be an expensive hobby.

3) The best strategy is not to aim for the middle of “peer institutions.” Instead, charge at the top of the range. This indicates high quality to poorly informed customers, provides more resources for improving the actual quality, and gauges as much money as possible from the global 1%. What is not to like?!

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#1 Comment By student On March 17, 2016 @ 10:43 am

Just because something is a luxury good, doesn’t mean its immune to the law of demand.

#2 Comment By frank uible On March 17, 2016 @ 12:29 pm

Age old tension between marketers and accountants.

#3 Comment By anon On March 17, 2016 @ 1:16 pm

Student- Actually, that is exactly what that means. If Williams “is the best” then people will always be willing to pay for it, regardless of relative supply and demand in the education market.

#4 Comment By anon On March 17, 2016 @ 1:30 pm

Dave is making the argument that the quantity supplied is 1, so there is inelasticity as long as the quality of the good does not change.

#5 Comment By student On March 17, 2016 @ 4:10 pm

Luxury good means that demand for a good increases more than proportionally with an increasing income, it doesn’t mean you will pay anything for the good.

#6 Comment By anon On March 17, 2016 @ 5:49 pm

Student- No, that is not necessarily what luxury good means. Especially not when supply is fixed at 1. The way David is using it he is focusing on the inelasticity of some rare luxury items.

#7 Comment By anon On March 17, 2016 @ 5:51 pm

Since you can’t make more to meet demand and find equilibrium, there will always be people willing to pay for the best thing, even if the economy is bad and general demand is low, the affluent will always pay for the best goods.

#8 Comment By anon On March 17, 2016 @ 5:54 pm

I am sure someone at Williams has the magic number.. the perfect number of students to get the most money from tuition, alumni giving etc.

If the school grows (which it appears to be doing) that is why. $$$$.