Provost Dukes Love gave a presentation (pdf) on “Access and Affordability in Higher Education” at the Alumni Leadership weekend in May. Thanks to popular demand, we will spend this week going through some highlights. Background reading: this 2016 overview of similar material from the previous provost, Will Dudley ’89, and our 2017 series about the Equality of Opportunity project. Day 4.

This is the most interesting and original slide in the presentation:

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1) Although not mentioned explicitly, this data probably comes from COFHE. It is a shame that COFHE is so secretive. There should be much more transparency among non-profits in general and in higher education specifically.

2) Each dot is a peer school. Williams is the big purple dot. The axes highlight the two major choices that elite colleges face in terms of financial aid:

  • What percentage of students should we aid? This is the y-axis. Williams, relative to its peer group, is about average. We give financial aid to about 50% of all students, a number that has been fairly stable (page 9 of the pdf) for more than a decade. Note that this percentage, alone, is a poor guide to how generous (or economically) diverse a school really is. Imagine a school that gives almost every student $100, even those who come from millionaire families. Such a school would have a high percentage of aided students, without giving much aid.
  • How much do aided students pay on average? This is the x-axis. This measures catches those schools who try to game the system, as above. (Note the two outlier dots at the top of the chart in the center. Which schools are these? Maybe Wash U? I would guess Emory, except that Emory is not a part of COFHE.) Williams does very well (?) on this measure. We charge aided students less than all but 2 or 3 other schools. This metric can, in isolation, be gamed by only aiding a handful of students but giving each of them free rides.

3) By combining the two measures, this chart does an elegant job of highlighting the schools that are truly generous. Kudos to Provost Love and his team! The more up-and-to-the-left you are, the more generous you are to more students. (Of course, this is really just a measure of how rich a school is. The people who run elite schools are very similar in their ideological preferences. They vary in the wealth of the institutions they control.)

4) Who are the two schools clearly more generous than Williams, i.e., the two dots above-and-to-our-left? Presumably Princeton and either Harvard or Yale. (I am not sure how Stanford could be included in this analysis given all of its athletic scholarships.)

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