Provost Will Dudley’s discussion (pdf) of financial aid at Williams is equal parts useful and misleading. Let’s spend five days discussing it. Today is Day 1.

Will Dudley ’89 is a good guy and will make a fine president at Washington and Lee. EphBlog is sad that he isn’t (?) in the running to succeed Falk. All that said, there is no excuse for misleading gibberish like this.

How do you determine what a family can afford to pay?

The primary driver is income. We also look at families’ assets. We completely exclude from consideration retirement plans. We assess other funds at a rate of around 5 percent. There’s a myth that saving for college hurts you, because we’re just going to take it all from you. But we’re not. If you have $100,000 saved in the bank, it’s reasonable to ask you to contribute about $5,000 of that savings each year.

Liar. Or, at the very least, highly, highly misleading, with a tricky implicit definition of the “you” in that last sentence. Imagine that you have a 5 year old kid and win $100,000 in the lottery. Dudley implies that the College will only take 5% of that money each year, once little Johnny comes to Williams. False! If you put that $100,000 into an educational savings vehicle, or anything else with Johnny’s name on it, then Williams will take all $100,000 of it, every single dime.

If, however, you are smart enough to read EphBlog (and not listen to misleading statements from Williams officials), you should, at least, keep the $100,000 in your own name. You can always use it for Johnny’s tuition at Williams if you want to.

Even better, of course, is to put the money in a retirement account in your own name. (By the way, I love Will’s preening about the marvelous moral virtue of Williams excluding “retirement” plans. You mean that Williams won’t count Mitt Romney’s $100 million IRA among his assets? That seems fair!)

The details about how the College caps contributions from home equity are always interesting. Can any reader provide an update on the current rules? Related discussion here.

Advice: If you think your kid will get accepted by an elite school, then a) Save zero money in her name, b) Do as much of your savings as possible in retirement accounts, c) Pay off your mortgage and, only after you have done all the above, d) Save money for college.

Williams is no longer need-blind for international students. How does the college fulfill its aims with regard to access and diversity when it comes to this demographic?

We meet 100 percent of demonstrated need for every single student that we admit, domestic or international.

Does anyone else find it distasteful when College officials are so misleading in communications with alumni? I do! (But kudos to the Williams Magazine for at least bringing up the topic.)

Dudley ought to just be truthful. (Corrections welcome if any of my facts are wrong.) Williams sets a financial aid budget of X for international students. It admits students in, roughly, the order of desirability and gives them the aid they need until X is used up. After that, the only international students considered are the rich ones.

And that is a perfectly reasonable policy! As we have discussed many times before, the main issue/injustice/error with regard to international admissions is the quota.

We determine ability to contribute in the same way. Our international students are coming from more countries today than ever. And the acceptance rate for international students is around 5 percent, which is much lower than it is for domestic students. The competition is really incredible, because Williams has a fantastic international reputation.

The 5% figure is interesting. Given the latest news release that 100 international students were accepted into the class of 2020, we can estimate 2,000 applications from abroad. That is a big number, around 25% or 30% of the total applicant pool. Most accounts, as above, suggest that the pool is very strong. I suspect that, if Williams replaced the bottom 200 American students with the top 200 international students it currently rejects, the overall class would be much stronger academically, perhaps even at Harvard/Princeton levels.

Many schools are bringing wealthy international students to their campuses in order to bring in more tuition dollars. We’re not doing that.

Uh, aren’t you? After the fixed financial aid budget for international students is used up, Williams only looks at “wealthy international students.” Don’t insult us like this, Will!

We’re need-seeking internationally as well as domestically. In fact, our international population receives more aid than our domestic population. Roughly half of our domestic students receive financial aid, compared with close to 60 percent of the international population. And the average aided international student receives about $10,000 a year more in financial aid than the average aided domestic student.

Vaguely interesting but mostly separate from the critical issue: Having a quota against international students is, morally and practically, about as defensible as the quota against Jewish students a century ago.

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