The last paragraph of the College’s news release about the class of 2020 is so filled with fascinating facts that we need four days to go through it. Today is Day 4.
Fifty percent of students will receive financial aid, with an average aid package of $53,194.
Remember last September when we mocked New York Times editor David Leonhardt (@DLeonhardt) for his naiveté in believing that “Williams has recently been making an effort to become more [economically diverse].” This was absurd because, for decades, Williams has been run by people who care a great deal about socio-economic diversity. For Williams to pretend otherwise — and for Leonhardt to allow them to pretend without doing any real reporting — was embarrassing.
Although we documented this absurdity then, the arrival of the class of 2020 allows us an opportunity to revisit it. Leonhardt reported, as fact, that Williams cared more about economic diversity now than it has in the passed. Perhaps the simplest measure of such caring is: How many students receive financial aid? At first glance, 50% of the class of 2020 receiving financial aid seems diverse! But, 8 years ago, fifty percent of the class of 2012 received financial aid. And, 11 years ago, 49% of the students in the class of 2009 received financial aid.
About half of each Williams class has been on financial aid for more than a decade. If “percentage on financial aid” is your preferred measure of economic diversity, then Williams is no more diverse now than it was in 2005.
Not so fast! Williams total cost has dramatically increases over the last decade, from $42,310 to $65,480 this year. (By the way, is there some official source of total costs over time at Williams?) Since US cash-incomes are largely flat over this time period, Williams has become much less economically diverse in the last decade.
In other words, in 2005, the wealth/income of the median family at Williams was large enough that they could afford $42,310. In 2016, the median family at Williams is much richer! It can afford $65,480. In all likelihood, the entire distribution of family income/wealth has significantly increased. Not that there is anything wrong with that! Williams has always been a school for the children of the rich, now more than ever.
And EphBlog does not mind! Williams should accept/recruit/enroll the most academically gifted and ambitious 18 year-old English-fluent students in the world. Some will be rich, some poor. Some US citizens, some not. The changes in the joint distribution of income/wealth/IQ in the population at large, changes forecast in The Bell Curve a generation ago, are not the College’s problem.
Studying the increase/decrease/stability of economic diversity at Williams over the last 50 years would make for a great senior thesis. Start with my ten day rant on related topics in 2014. Summary: The economic diversity at Williams has been largely constant for 50 years. There were poor kids at Williams in the 1960’s. There are poor students today.
In 1998, the 426th poorest family at Williams had a family income of $63,791. What is the family income of the 426th poorest family at Williams today? How has that number changed over the last two decades?
Professor Love has easy access to this data because the College has the family incomes for every student who requests aid. He could answer this question. Is the Record smart enough to ask it?