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This comment merits further discussion.

There are two issues with that [loosening the international quota]. The first is that international students have considerably lower graduation/retention rates than any other demographic group at the top schools. That’s not a consequence of ability but rather of uncertainty: financial aid for international students often doesn’t increase in later years, there is a geographic barrier, and foreign political/economic situations can complicate their coming back.

False. Here is the latest data on graduation rates:

gradu

International student 6-year graduation rate is about the same as that of white/Asian students, as we would expect. African-American/Hispanic students are about twice as likely to fail to graduate from Williams in 6 years.

Now, this data has evolved over time and you may be right about both earlier periods and about 4-year graduation rates. But, even then, a big driver is “diversity” among the international students. Not all international students are AR 1, after all. Indeed, I would not be surprised if some (many?) international students are AR 3 and below, if they come from the sorts of countries (not China, South Korea, England, et cetera) that Williams likes.

When I recommend increasing international enrollment, I mean for AR 1 students. Speaking roughly, I would start with about 25 more students from China/Korea/Japan.

The second issue is that the international pool is not as strong as it is constantly made out to be. Many of these students are not informed about how competitive US colleges are, so you get a lot of weak applicants applying when they have no chance of getting in. This is backed by the statistics of need-blind for international students schools like MIT and Amherst: the international acceptance rate is a third of the domestic one, even though these colleges have made assurances to not let ability to pay influence the likelihood of getting in. Many colleges (Williams, Wesleyan, Swarthmore) report a similar pattern: an international acceptance rate 1/4-1/2 that of domestic students.

Is the acceptance rate low because the pool is weaker or because these schools, like Williams, have a quota on international students?

Everyone that I have discussed this with — although contrary opinions are welcome — suggests that there are, at least 50 AR 1 international applicants (many not requiring any financial aid) who are currently rejected by Williams but who would enroll if given the chance. Do you disagree?

Even if students stand out academically, it isn’t enough. Prominent international universities like India Institute of Technology and Tsinghua University admit solely by performance on a test. The UK institutions- Cambridge, UCL, LSE, Oxford- don’t care about extracurricular activities at all. On the contrary, The top US colleges don’t just want perfect scorers. Williams doesn’t either. As a residential college, it wants committed students who will engage critically and meaningfully with their peers and their community. As a distinguished and scholarly place, it wants those who are committed to learning and open to having their viewpoints expanded and challenged across a broad spectrum of fields. Those things can only be evaluated by subjective perspectives, not the SAT.

False. First, there is no evidence that AR 1 applicants are, relative to AR 4 applicants, any less willing to “engage critically and meaningfully with their peers and their community.” If anything AR 1 students are more willing, or, at the very least they are much more willing to engage in academic work, and with a talent for doing so.

Second, are you arguing that the current Williams admissions process uses “subjective perspectives” in evaluating candidates? As if! Or are you arguing that it should? Perhaps. I am always happy to entertain a discussion of changes in the admissions process.

Not to say that Williams has done enough or that it should be content with where it is- the simple fact that you have 8400 students applying compared to 40000 at some top universities means that there is a significant cohort of good fit, high stats international students who should apply and largely be admitted. But here’s another question: how will Williams convince them to apply and attend over HYPS + other Ivies + other top 20 universities? The LAC name brand is virtually non-existent outside of the States, even for Williams and Amherst (beyond maybe Oxford/Cambridge/London).

Williams doesn’t need to convince 40,000 (or 40) high schools students (who don’t apply) to apply. We have plenty of applicants already! We just need to change who we admit and who we reject.

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Improving International Yield

An e-mail on the effort to improve our yield of accepted international students:

Hi everyone,

Thank you to all those who came to the meeting tonight! It was wonderful meeting you in person. For those who could not make it, below are some of the topics we talked about and information I shared.

Spring Yield Initiatives for Class of 2021 –

1) Connecting via email – All newly admitted international students will be connected to a current international student, ideally based on common interest or geography. I will reach out to you with the information of the students you will be connecting with.

2) Phone/Skype – a – thon – calling all admitted international students who have not yet made a decision on their admission offer. Calls will be made by interested current students and myself. I (Misha) will send out an email listing the dates and times for these calls.

Some helpful links with information about Williams.

How to get to Williams – https://admission.williams.edu/visit/getting-here/
Student Profile 2016-17 – https://admission.williams.edu/files/Student-Profile-2016-2017.pdf
Williams Viewbook – https://admission.williams.edu/viewbook/
Course Catalog – http://catalog.williams.edu/
Community engagement and learning – https://learning-in-action.williams.edu/
Events Calendar – https://events.williams.edu/

A few things to remember when connecting with new admitted students:

Please do not offer any visa advice. All visa related questions should be directed to Dean Pretto. With the changing immigration policies, the experiences of those applying for the F-1 visa this summer may be different from yours, so it is imperative that none of us (including me) offer any advice on visas or visas process.
If you do not have the answer to a question, please send it my way. I would be happy to answer it on behalf of you.
As you reflect on your time at Williams and share your insights, please be honest and positive. There may have been time when the weather or the small size of the town or something else may have been a less than ideal experience, but please think of the bigger picture and focus on the positives. If you receive any especially difficult questions that you do not feel comfortable answering, please feel free to send them to me.
All questions regarding orientation schedule and flights can be directed to Dean Pretto.

Once again, thank you for being willing to yield the class of 2021! We hope that as many students as possible will choose to Williams and join our thriving international community.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Best wishes,
Misha

My anonymous correspondent bolded the section above.

What other efforts does Williams make to improve its yield? I would assume that special efforts are made in areas where Williams yields particularly poorly — especially among African-Americans, but also, I bet, among Hispanics and lower income families — but I don’t know the details. Does anyone?

What advice would you have for Williams about how to improve yield?

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Incredibly Diverse I

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 1.

The class is also incredibly diverse. Thirty-seven percent of students in the incoming class are U.S. students of color, and another 7 percent are international students

Has the percentage of US students of color leveled off? Or even dropped? From Adam Falk, the class of 2016 has 38%. According to the current version of Fast Facts, it was 40% for the class of 2019. According to the 2011-2012 Common Data Set (pdf and only available on EphBlog!), it was 37% ((64 + 44 + 57 + 37)/546) for the class of 2015. Comments:

1) Definitions matter. Are we talking about the percentage of the entire class that is US students of color (I think this is correct) or percentage of US students that are students of color. Does the College (does everyone) use the same definition? For reference, here (pdf) are the definitions used in the Common Data Set for the class of 2019.

cds

Note how this lines up, almost, with the 40% claim in Fast Facts: (67 + 51 + 1 + 76 + 27)/546 = 41% — with rounding. So, perhaps the big story here is that “US Students of color at Williams drop by almost 10% (222 to 204(?)) in class of 2020!”

2) Behavior matters. How honest are applicants in checking these boxes? How have their choices — honest or not — changed over time? Intelligent applicants know that there is a bias against Asian-American applicants, if not at Williams than at places like Harvard and Stanford. So, they have every incentive to check the “white” box if they can. In particular, mixed race (white/Asian) applicants are foolish if they don’t check the “white” box. There is also evidence that more applicants who used to check the “white” box are now making other choices. Background reading here. Note my prediction from a decade (!) ago:

The point is that there are significant preferences given to those who check certain boxes and that cheap genetic testing will provide many people with a plausible excuse to check boxes that, a few years ago, they did not have. How much will the admissions process change as a result? Time will tell. It will be very interesting to look at the time series of application by ethnic group over this decade. I predict that the raw number (and total pool percentage) of African-American and Hispanic applicants will increase sharply.

Has that happened?

The most depressing news about the class of 2020 is the decline in international students back down to the usual quota level of 7%. Sad! I was wrong about Adam Falk. He continues to discriminate against international students in exactly the same way that his predecessors at Harvard discriminated against Jewish students a 100 years ago.

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International Student Countries of Origin IV

Here (doc) is a listing of the countries of origin of the 155 international students in the classes of 2015 — 2018. Let’s spend four days discussing it. This is Day 4.

Recall our discussion of President Falk’s induction address five years ago. Falk said:

we must develop a deeper understanding of what it means for Williams to be an international institution. We must simultaneously be local and global, building a very specific, Berkshires-based Williams that could only be found in this valley, while reaching out far beyond to prepare our students to be effective citizens not only of this country but of the world. Many pieces of this process seem obvious – bring international students to Williams, send Williams students to study abroad – but our conception of a global strategy is still emerging. We are, after all, not a sprawling multiversity but a small college of two thousand students, each here for four years and some thirty courses. We cannot simply add every desirable experience to our curriculum or to student life. We must become global within our existing scale and scope, and without chasing fashions or being driven by our shifting anxieties about America’s geopolitical position. Grappling with this question will require the engagement of our entire community, as our strategies will encompass the curriculum and extend into so much of what we do. And we must think of the internationalization of Williams as something that happens here in Williamstown, capitalizing on what this campus and region can offer.

It has been five years. Does Falk still believe this? I don’t know. This is exactly the vision that I have for Williams, the fundamental change that I have pushed and pushed and pushed for many years. I hope that future historians will mark this as the most important paragraph in the speech.

Recall our previous discussion about how Falk might make Williams “a college for all of the United States, and of the world.” Falk is, I think, explicitly rejecting the Middlebury Model of a global liberal arts college with facilities and programs all around the world. Reread these key phrases: “Berkshires-based Williams that could only be found in this valley” and “global within our existing scale and scope” and “happens here in Williamstown, capitalizing on what this campus and region can offer.” Falk has no plans to expand programs like Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford.

2) If you reject the Middlebury Model of offering facilities/programs everywhere and if you realize that there is no way — without tilting admissions toward dramatically more wealthy students — to enroll US applicants that are more “global,” then your only option “for Williams to be an international institution” is to dramatically increase foreign student enrollment. Reasonable people might disagree with that goal, might think that a Williams with 8% non-US citizens and quality study abroad options is international enough. But if you really believe Falk’s rhetoric, then your only choice is a major change in admissions.

Yet it has been five years. If Falk really wanted to make Williams more global, he would have done more than increase international enrollment from 37 (class of 2014) to 46 (class of 2018). Maybe he is about to start now? We can hope! What should he do?

1) Hire at least one member of the admissions office to work (and probably live) in Asia. The best person would probably be a recent Williams graduate, a citizen of one of the major feeder countries. That person would work on establishing relationships with the most elite English-immersion high schools in Asia. Recall our discussion about the Daewon Foreign Language High School. There are a score (50?) of schools of Daewon’s quality in China, South Korea, and the rest of Asian. We should know them and they should know us. We don’t need everyone in China to know about Williams. We just need the students and counselors of schools like Daewon to.

2) Increase admissions from China, Korea and other countries with high quality applicants. It is absurd that there are only 16 students from China and 11 from Korea among the 2,000 Ephs. Williams, could, in the class of 2020, have 25 from both countries (call it one per entry) without either decreasing the academic quality of the class or spending anymore on financial aid. (There are plenty of wealthy (or at least not poor), highly intelligent applicants currently attending elite high schools in Asia who would love to come to Williams, especially if a Williams admissions officer explained what it means to be the #1 liberal arts college in America.

Because of my naivete, I bet (link?) a fellow EphBlogger that Williams would be 20% international by the class of 2021. This looks like a bet that I am certain to lose. That makes me sad. But the battle continues.

If, 100 years ago, you wanted Williams to be the best college in the world, you should have argued against discriminating against Jews. If, today, you want Williams to be the best college in the world, you should be against quotas for international applicants. What do you want?

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International Student Countries of Origin III

Here (doc) is a listing of the countries of origin of the 155 international students in the classes of 2015 — 2018. Let’s spend four days discussing it. This is Day 3.

There seems to be some “country collecting” going on here, lots of countries with just one or two students. That is, I bet that there are much stronger students in, say, China/Korea/Canada that Williams rejects in favor students from more obscure countries.

This probably leads us to underestimate of the amount of discrimination against academically excellent international applicants. Recall previous discussions here and here. Summary: It sometimes (but not every year) seems like international students do much better in academics than US students, suggesting the possibility of bias against them in the admissions process. (Of course, there are other hypotheses.)

The relevance about this new information, however, is that we can probably divide the international population into two groups: competitive countries (China, Korea, Canada, . . . ) and non-competitive countries. Applicants from competitive countries, with academic credentials significantly above the Williams average, probably do much better at Williams (and are more discriminated against by admissions) than applicants from non-competitive countries.

Consider the 46 seniors elected to Phi Beta Kappa last spring. Only 5 appear to be international:

Benjamin C. Hoyle, mathematics, Paris, France
Raea E. Rasmussen, psychology, Tokyo, Japan
Miho Sakuma, history, Tokyo, Japan
Phonkrit Tanavisarut, economics and mathematics, Bangkok, Thailand
Jeewon Yoo, English and mathematics, Seoul, Republic of Korea

This is not too much above the class’s proportion of international students. But these students sure don’t seem to come from the countries that, a priori, I would describe as “competitive.”

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International Student Countries of Origin II

Here (doc) is a listing of the countries of origin of the 155 international students in the classes of 2015 — 2018. Let’s spend four days discussing it. This is Day 2.

Williams students come from more than 50 different countries. Wow! That is real diversity. A student who grew up in, say, Tunisia, brings much more diversity to the Williams campus than a student (whether African-American, Hispanic or whatever) who spent the last 12 years at Milton. (The sons/daughters of the local kleptocracy who also attended Milton, not so much.) If you want Williams to be the best College in the world (and you should), then you want Williams to admit and attract the smartest English-fluent 18-year-olds regardless of their place of birth. This listing is a good start.

Any updates on the official plans for international admissions? Recall our discuss last summer. Summary: For most of the last 15 years, Williams had an explicit quota for international students, at about 35 in each class. Then, last year we had 49 and this year 46. Has there been a change in the policy? If not, then why us the number 1/3 higher than it used to be?

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International Student Countries of Origin I

Here (doc) is a listing of the countries of origin of the 155 international students in the classes of 2015 — 2018. Let’s spend four days discussing it. This is Day 1.

Here is a screen shot of the beginnings of the list.

intstudents

1) More transparency please! It is annoying that we have to rely on secret sources to get this information. The Admissions Department, presumably, prepares an annual report on international admissions that is shared with the Trustees and/or the Faculty. Any such report should be share with the broader community as well (with any information that identifies a specific individual removed, of course). A transparent college is a better governed college, one less likely to be hit by scandal and more likely to have the support of the community.

2) This listing my oversell the true “diversity” of international students. You can certain that the students from, say, Afghanistan and Botswana are not from poverty stricken rural villages. (Nor should Williams admit such students, except in exceptional circumstances.) Instead, these are the sons/daughters of the elite, often raised abroad and provided with world-class educations in places like London and New York. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Do we have any international students among our readers? Tell us about your experience at Williams.

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The Best College in the World

The mission of Williams is to be the best college in the world. Once you accept this assumption, many things follow. For example, current sophomore James asks:

Why do you think the college should so drastically increase its % of international students?

If you want to be the best college in the world, you need to have the best students. And, until Google develops built in universal translators, this means the best English-fluent students. Some of those students will be born in Massachusetts, some in Shanghai and some in Sydney. Wherever they come from, Williams ought to find them, admit them and recruit them.

Twenty years ago, this was much less of an issue because there were not that many very smart non-US applicants. Increasing the percentage of international students would have resulted in a decrease in average student quality. So, it was right and proper than Williams was 95% American.

But the world has changed dramatically since then. There are now thousands of high quality international applicants, especially from places like China and South Korea. The reason that Williams is only 9% international today is because the College actively discriminates against non-American applicants. If the College were country-of-citizenship blind — in the same was that it is astrological-sign-blind — we would be at least 20% international today.

More concretely, Williams should, in the class of 2020, get rid of the bottom 100 American students in terms academic rating (generally ARs of 2 and 3) and replace them with 100 International students, all of whom will have ARs of 1.

Ask yourself: Why is Williams better than Connecticut College? It isn’t because our English professors are better than their English professor or our dining hall food is better than their dining hall food. It is because our students are, on average, smarter than their students. If you really want Williams to be the best College in the world, then your number one focus should be on improving the quality of the students, and then easiest way to do that is to end the quota against international admissions.

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History of International Enrollment

UPDATE: Thanks to JAS for providing this graphic! Post edited.

WilliamsInternational

Thanks to Courtney Wade, our wonderful Director of Institutional Research, for providing this data (via IPEDs) on the history on international enrollment at Williams.

Fall 2014 49
Fall 2013 37
Fall 2012 31
Fall 2011 38
Fall 2010 37
Fall 2009 31
Fall 2008 46
Fall 2007 47
Fall 2006 38
Fall 2005 32
Fall 2004 31
Fall 2003 33
Fall 2002 34
Fall 2001 23
Fall 2000 31
Fall 1999 35
Fall 1998 28
Fall 1997 30
Fall 1996 28
Fall 1995 12
Fall 1994 17

See here for previous discussion. Comments:

1) I should turn this into a pretty R graphic. Apologies for my laziness. Thanks JAS!

2) Approximately 50 international students are in the class of 2019. Why the big jump up in the last two years?

3) The last big jump was the doubling between 1995 and 1996. Who made that decision? Kudos to them!

4) The big drop between 2008/2009 and 2010 was probably (?) caused by the ending of need-blind admissions for international students. Of course, that policy change is still in place, but the dramatic increase in the quality (and wealth) of international applicants has made it much less of an issue.

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Changes in International Admissions?

Have there been changes in the quota with regard to international admissions? In January, I asked Jim Kolesar:

Nine (!) years ago, you kindly answered my questions about international admissions at Williams and, specifically, about the 6% goal/target that the College then employed.

Has that policy changed?

I ask because there was a big jump in international enrollment for the class of 2018, to 49 from usual numbers in the 30s. Of course, this could just be random fluctuation, but at almost 9% of the class, it is a big move up in percentage terms.

Links added. Jim kindly responded (and gave me permission to post):

The 49 figure is best understood as a result of the randomness of yield.

Fair enough. Knowing how many accepted students will choose Williams is a non-trivial problem, especially in situations, like international admissions, which feature significant change. It is harder to forecast yield from Shanghai than it is from Andover.

But then I read this news:

Nesbitt expects the final [2019] class to be composed of 38 percent of American students of color. He expects the class to be 12 percent black, 15 percent Asian American, 11 percent Latino and one percent Native American. Additionally, nine percent of the class is expected to be international students. First-generation students, meaning neither parent graduated from a four-year college, will amount to 16 percent of the class.

Class size is usually 550. Nine percent of 550 is almost 50. Yield randomness might explain 50 international students for the class of 2018. It can’t explain the 50 in both the class of 2018 and 2019. Don’t believe that something is going on? Consider the recent time series:

2013: 31
2014: 37
2015: 38
2016: 31
2017: 37
2018: 49
2019: 50 (estimate)

Number prior to the class of 2015 were (always?) in the 30s.

Has there been a policy change? If not, what explains the increase?

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Admissions Reform

Recall our previous discussion about suggested steps that students interested in reforming international admissions might take. Below are some more suggestions:

1) Remind Adam Falk about what he said/promised in his induction speech.

We now recognize that the future leaders of society will come from all its many parts, and that the highest manifestation of the public good we provide is to be a college for all of the United States, and of the world.

we must develop a deeper understanding of what it means for Williams to be an international institution. We must simultaneously be local and global, building a very specific, Berkshires-based Williams that could only be found in this valley, while reaching out far beyond to prepare our students to be effective citizens not only of this country but of the world. Many pieces of this process seem obvious – bring international students to Williams, send Williams students to study abroad – but our conception of a global strategy is still emerging. We are, after all, not a sprawling multiversity but a small college of two thousand students, each here for four years and some thirty courses. We cannot simply add every desirable experience to our curriculum or to student life. We must become global within our existing scale and scope, and without chasing fashions or being driven by our shifting anxieties about America’s geopolitical position. Grappling with this question will require the engagement of our entire community, as our strategies will encompass the curriculum and extend into so much of what we do. And we must think of the internationalization of Williams as something that happens here in Williamstown, capitalizing on what this campus and region can offer.

Many listeners to Falk’s words five years ago assumed that he was on our side, that he wanted to meaningfully increase the number of international students at Williams by, for example, easing/removing the current quota. So far, we have been disappointed. But it is never too late! If Falk still believes that “the internationalization of Williams as something that happens here in Williamstown,” then you can help him move forward.

I still think that Falk (and the rest of the senior administration) is more likely than not to be an ally. So, when speaking with them, you should not say, “Here are our demands!” Instead, you should ask, “How can we help you to make Williams ‘become global within our existing scale and scope’?”

2) Start working on the data. Of course, the first best option is the creation of a faculty committee that would bring the same sophisticated and thorough data analysis to the question of international admissions that the MacDonald Committee brought to the issue of athletic admissions. But that may not be possible right away. However, it is not too early to start your own work on these issues.

First, get some commitment from the Administration (ideally from Falk) that the College will make data available, in the same way that they have made data for senior theses available in the past (e.g., here and here). You aren’t looking for special treatment (or information about any specific student) but the Administration should be able to provide you with the same sort of access that Williams has provided to students like Jennifer Doleac ’03 and Peter Nurnberg ’09 in the past.

Second, get some commitment from a faculty member or two to “supervise” this work. Professors Miller and Stoiciu would be great choices, as would anyone else sympathetic to your cause. The Administration won’t like just handing data to students. But, with a faculty member in a supervisory role, it should be possible.

Third, try to find a junior who would be willing to write a senior thesis on this topic. Such a student, working for someone like Miller, would be perfect. There are 50+ juniors considering doing a senior thesis in economics or statistics. Surely one of them would like to tackle this topic, especially after they find out how many other people would be interested in the results!

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How to Change International Admissions

Judging from the Record, there are students interested in revisiting international admissions at Williams. Advice:

1) Create an organization, something like “Ephs Against Quotas” or “Ephs Interested in International Admissions” or whatever. The name does not matter. But you need a place to stand, an official group that can organize petitions, seek support from the faculty and meet with the administration. Just two members are enough to start. Although you can seek help from other existing organizations — International Club, College Council and so on — you need a separate organization to build your movement around. Best recent example of such an effort is the Williams Endowment Initiative. (You don’t need to be nearly as professional as they are, although tools like NationBuilder make professionalism (look?) easy.)

2) Have a clear goal: The creation of special faculty committee to study international admissions. This might seem like a modest aim, but a) It is harder than it looks and b) Committees are the method by which the College has made its most important changes, .e.g., the end of fraternities and the decrease in admissions advantages for athletes.

3) Create a webpage that includes the name of your group, key members, contact information and a one paragraph statement of your goal. Again, you don’t need a professional looking site, but you do need at least one simple page.

4) Recruit to your cause. Create a “Board of Directors” or some similar leadership group. Appoint yourself and your 2 or 3 key student organizers. Then add a faculty member and/or prominent alumni. (I have been told that former trustee Jack Wadsworth ’60 and current trustee Joey Horn ’87 would be sympathetic to your cause.) Many faculty members would be supportive. At this point, it does not matter how many faculty/alumni you recruit (or what they do), as long as you get one of each who are willing to add their names to your Board. In this way, you are no longer just a student group; you are a student/faculty/alumni group.

5) Write up your one paragraph goal as a formal petition. Get College Council to support it. Table for a day or two in Paresky and get a few hundred student signatures. Try to get a dozen (or more) faculty. You aren’t asking these people to do anything more than sign the petition, but those signatures give your proposal heft. Note how the reasonableness of your goal — Who could be against a faculty committee to study international admissions? — maximizes the support that you can gather.

6) Focus on the issue of the quota against international students not on financial aid. First, the quota — so reminiscent of the Jewish quotas at elite schools in the 1920s — is much less defensible. Consider two rich students, neither requiring any financial aid. Why should Williams accept a weaker applicant born in San Diego over a stronger applicant from Shanghai? Second, there are significant problems with financial aid for international students because such students sometimes/often misreport their financial situation. (Not that we should blame them! Only a foolish Chinese citizen makes clear to the Chinese government just how wealthy he is.)

7) Now that you have an organization, a Board, a goal and some signatures, you are ready to approach the Administration. And, good news! Lots of people in the Administration, perhaps even Adam Falk himself, will be in favor of your idea. The faculty, uniformly, love international students. Most think that the College ought to have more rather than fewer.

By seeking the formation of a faculty committee you are giving the Administration cover (against the alumni/trustees?) for something that it probably wants to do anyway, just as similar committees in the past served to help the faculty achieve its own goals, like the elimination of fraternities and the decrease in admissions preferences for athletes.

Good luck!

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Record Article on Financial Aid II

The Record article on College financial aid policy is excellent. Kudos to reporter Lauren Bender ’15! Let’s spend four days discussing it. Many of my comments will appear critical but I am aiming for constructive criticism. This is one of the best Record articles of the last several years. Day 2:

When students apply to the College, admissions are “need-blind,” meaning that the College does not take a family’s financial need into account when admitting students. However, this is not the case for international students, and the College does assess the family’s ability to pay when admitting international students. There are currently 85 international students on financial aid at the College.

Again, Bender needs to provide us with more context. How many international students are at Williams in total? How does the percentage on financial aid among international students compare to the percentage among US students? How has this percentage changed over time? Comments:

1) According to the latest Common Data set, Williams has 147 international students. (Note that this is last year’s data and Bender is (probably!) giving us this year’s.) So, there are 62 international students at Williams who get non financial aid. Wow! That is a huge change (I think). I believe that, when we discussed this at EphBlog several years ago, virtually every international student was on almost a full ride. Correct?

2) As you (should!) know, Williams has a shameful quota for international students. I had hoped that Falk might do something about that. So far, no luck.

3) Although I hate the quota against international admissions, I have no problem with not being need-blind for international applicants. First, the whole need-blind scheme is annoying and unfair, for all the usual reasons. Second, it is even more annoying and unfair with international students because it is impossible for Williams to accurately judge the income and wealth of students outside the US. So, we shouldn’t try to do it.

First, the College does not have the resources to deal with tax forms in other languages. Do you read Bengali? Do you think that the College should hire someone who does?

Second, accuracy (honesty?) on non-US tax forms is of much lower quality. And I don’t blame them! If I were a Chinese citizen, the last thing that I would do would be to be too truthful to the Chinese state.

4) Bender ought to know (and tell her readers!) that this claim is false: “the College does not take a family’s financial need into account when admitting students.” Of course it does! First, if you are super rich (and the College thinks that your family might donate enough for another Hollander Hall), you have a huge advantage in admissions. Second, if you are poor, the College gives you an advantage in admissions.

It is hard to fully trust Bender’s other reporting after she makes such a basic error.

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Lavish Financial Aid Packages

Consider this comment from last February’s discussion of financial aid policy and international admissions.

I graduated from Williams in ’97. I know for a fact that the college admitted Internationals and gave them lavish financial aid packages when in many circumstances they did not deserve the generosity. I knew one student in particular whose father owned a clothing factory in India and could have easily paid for his tuition in full at Williams but was able to hide his familial assets when he applied to the school. It’s a shame that American students are in effect subsidizing these (shady) international students.

1) I have heard similar stories, but I do not think these cases are common. Am I naive? I think that the vast majority of international students who get a full ride at Williams (and that is the vast majority of international students) come from poor families.

2) These things happen with/to/for US students as well. How can the College know the actual wealth tied up in a small family business? How can Williams know how much the non-custodial parent (or grand-parents) are willing to contribute? Short answer: We can’t.

3) Even with perfect knowledge of current family income/wealth, financial aid can never be “fair”. Some families put thousands of dollars away each year for college. Other families, with the exact same income, don’t save anything and use that money for vacations. Is it fair for Williams to charge these two families the same amount?

I would like to see Williams make some fairly major changes. First, we should treat international and US students the same: need-aware for everyone. Second, we should use other schools more actively as part of the process. (Perhaps we already do this?) If Jose gets a great offer from Yale, and we really want Jose, then we should match Yale’s offer. If Jose does not get an offer from Yale, then I have no problem asking him to take out $10,000 in loans. Third, we should consider offering four year cost guarantees. That is, we should tell students when they are accepted that Williams will cost them X. It is unfair to set tuition anew each year.

Finally, and most controversially, Williams should consider raising its stick price significantly. Why not charge wealthy families $100,000 per year? We are selling a luxury good. Let’s price it accordingly.

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Recruiting in China for the Heart of the Midwest …

(Illustration: The New York Times)
Recent EphBlog discussions have involved admissions of International students and the issue of pricing. The New York Time runs this interesting feature on Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa and their very active recruiting program. Williams is also mentioned as a participant in a joint effort in country.

Location, location, location:
Maybe not.

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Claiming Williams for the World

Assume that you are advising students interested in removing the quota for international applicants. How would you advise them to take advantage of Claiming Williams tomorrow? Summary: Stage a protest at the opening event. Chant “No More Quotas! No More Quotas” or something better. Bang a drum. Then ask Adam Falk to read a question about quotas that you want each member of the faculty panel to answer. Sit down and listen politely. Further details below. But surely the experienced rabble-rousers in our audience have better ideas . . .

1) Numbers don’t matter much. Even three students is enough, assuming that they have the courage of their convictions. But more are better. There are over 100 international students at Williams. Surely dozens would be willing to support the effort. Chanting and protests are fun, a little slice of American college life. It would also be easy (?) to recruit sympathetic students. One or two entries might be willing to come as a group. Talk to some JAs. Ideal would be student groups like BSU and the Jewish Association. Tell them how the Williams of 75 years ago discriminated against their ancestors. They might be willing to join your fight.

2) Whatever your numbers, you need to prepare a bit. Make at least one big sign. Come up with a couple of chants. “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Global quotas need to go!” Or whatever. (Reader suggestions?) Read more

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Williams College: A New Trajectory of Competitiveness (Proposal 3)

3. Increase the number of international students.

It is paramount that Williams position itself strategically within our increasingly globalized world. Williams must establish strong alumni networks within emerging economic heavyweights. In order to do so, Williams should increase its number of international students to 25%.  We especially want applicants from economic powers such as India and China in order to ensure a continuous flow of alumni support. Increasing Williams’ ideological and geographic diversity within the College provides an environment more conducive to creativity and productiveness. Moreover, such a policy offers myriad post-graduate opportunities for Williams alums, both domestic and international.

If you wish to read all of the proposals at once, they can be found at http://www.ephblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Williams-Proposal.pdf

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Induction Seminar: International Institution

This post continues our month-long seminar about President Adam Falk’s Induction address.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjUCCuFpfCs&start=1121

Second, we must develop a deeper understanding of what it means for Williams to be an international institution. We must simultaneously be local and global, building a very specific, Berkshires-based Williams that could only be found in this valley, while reaching out far beyond to prepare our students to be effective citizens not only of this country but of the world. Many pieces of this process seem obvious – bring international students to Williams, send Williams students to study abroad – but our conception of a global strategy is still emerging. We are, after all, not a sprawling multiversity but a small college of two thousand students, each here for four years and some thirty courses. We cannot simply add every desirable experience to our curriculum or to student life. We must become global within our existing scale and scope, and without chasing fashions or being driven by our shifting anxieties about America’s geopolitical position. Grappling with this question will require the engagement of our entire community, as our strategies will encompass the curriculum and extend into so much of what we do. And we must think of the internationalization of Williams as something that happens here in Williamstown, capitalizing on what this campus and region can offer.

DDF:

I love Adam Falk! This is exactly the vision that I have for Williams, the fundamental change that I have pushed and pushed and pushed for many years. I think that future historians will mark this as the most important paragraph in the speech.

1) Recall our previous discussion about how Falk might make Williams “a college for all of the United States, and of the world.” Falk is, I think, explicitly rejecting the Middlebury Model of a global liberal arts college with facilities and programs all around the world. Reread these key phrases: “Berkshires-based Williams that could only be found in this valley” and “global within our existing scale and scope” and “happens here in Williamstown, capitalizing on what this campus and region can offer.” Falk has no plans to expand programs like Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford.

2) If you reject the Middlebury Model of offering facilities/programs everywhere and if you realize that there is no way — without tilting admissions toward dramatically more wealthy students — to enroll US applicants than are more “global,” then your only option “for Williams to be an international institution” is to dramatically increase foreign student enrollment. Reasonable people might disagree with that goal, might think that a Williams with 8% non-US citizens and quality study abroad options is international enough. But if you really believe Falk’s rhetoric, then your only choice is a major change in admissions.

3) Again, this dramatic change is made possible by ending need-blind admissions for international students. Jeff and I have a bet about the percentage of international students in the class of 2121. I think that it will be 20% or more. What do you think it will be? What do you think it should be?

KT:

Holy mother of false dichotomies,   David!  I don’t even know what the Middlebury model is– I thought Falk was saying we can’t follow the NYU and Columbia models!

Really!  You can’t follow– what you are saying,  is that because Williams cannot follow the model used by Centre College,  it must certainly do what Ken Thomas wants for Williams!

(Except I have no such vision,  unlike you).

This is absurd.   At it’s most base,   what Falk is saying here,  is that Williams must engage these issues,  and begin to confront them in earnest and to plan– we might get some clues from the above,  some hints for direction,  but that is all.

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Why Williams Changed Its Financial Aid Policies

I woke up the other day with a genius insight. The biggest Williams mystery of 2010 is:

Why did Williams change its financial aid policies (ending no-loans for everyone and need-blind for internationals) when peer schools like Amherst made no changes?

Recall the discussion from the December 2008 Boston Alumni Meeting, near the depths of the financial crisis. Here is what I wrote then:

Greg Avis tried to point this out by describing the overall budget as about $200 million, with $40 million of that going to financial aid and $100 million to staff compensation. Both those areas are sacred. (And, again, this is my (weak?) evidence for claiming that need-blind international aid is safe. If it weren’t, that $40 million number could come down.)

The focus was much more on a) Cuts we are not going to make (people, aid) and b) Cuts that we have already made (delaying capital projects, hiring freezes, WNY, sustainability).

Of course, my memory could be faulty but my sense was that everyone walked out of that room thinking that Morty and Greg Avis ’80 (lead trustee) had no plans to change financial aid policies. And yet, just a year later, that is exactly what Williams did, despite the fact that the College financial situation was much stronger in February 2010 then it was in December 2008 because of the rebound in financial markets.

I have now figured out why Williams made these changes despite Avis’s obvious committment to financial aid in 2008.

Williams began planning for a major increase in international admissions when it named Adam Falk president a year ago. Because international students are, on average, much poorer than US students, the only way to go to 25% international is to reinstate loans and become need-aware for internationals.

Mystery solved!

If you don’t buy my explanation, why do you think that Trustee Chair Greg Avis ’80 went from strongly defending the College’s financial aid policies in December 2008 to radically changing them in February 2010? Alternative explanations welcome!

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In Perpetuity

Parent ’12 highlighted this 2003 news release.

Williams College President Morton Owen Schapiro is pleased to announce a $5 million gift from Edgar M. Bronfman ’50 to help extend need-blind admission to all international applicants to the college.

Last year Williams announced plans to admit qualified international students regardless of their families’ abilities to pay and to promise to meet 100 percent of their financial need for four years. Such need-blind admission previously was restricted to applicants from the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. Financial aid funds for other overseas students was limited. International students currently comprise 7 percent of the undergraduate population at Williams.

1) Bill Wagner wrote that the College was moving back to need-awareness for internationals and, in a private e-mail, Jim Kolesar confirmed that the new rules would apply to all non US citizens confirmed that Williams will continue to treat Permanent Residents the same as US citizens. So, the people that have been most screwed by the changes over the last decade are applicants from Canada and the Caribbean. They started out as being treated just like US students and will now be treated just like students from China or Bulgaria. Harsh!

2) What does Edgar Bronfman ’50 think about all this? The Record ought to call him and find out. I assume that the College has handled all the accounting fairly. Bronfman’s donation is still sitting in the endowment, with its income dedicated toward international admissions. (Does anyone understand the details of how that works at Williams?) It is just that the income is not enough given the relentless rise in tuition.

Bronfman’s gift is only the latest in his and his family’s ongoing commitment to international exchange and understanding at Williams. Last year alone, the Bronfman Family Fund made it possible for 10 foreign students to attend the college and for four Williams students to study abroad.

Hmm. As always, the details would be interesting to know. Is the Bronfman Family Fund a complete separate non-profit from Williams? Does it give these scholarships every year?

“Edgar Bronfman shares with the college and trustees the dream of making Williams a truly international institution” Schapiro said. “His generous gift will help us endow our international scholarship program in perpetuity and guarantee that Williams remains a world-class institution.”

I am not sure if “in perpetuity” means what naive readers think it means . . .

Financial aid for international students also was boosted by a significant portion of a $7.4 million anonymous commitment announced in October.

Just how much endowment money is dedicated to international financial aid?

UPDATE: This post has been edited in an attempt to raise my grade. Does this get me at least an A-?

UPDATE II: Correction about Permanent Residents made above. Thanks to ebaek for the pointer.

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International Admissions and Financial Aid

Is Williams a dramatic outlier in international admissions and financial aid? Perhaps:

Pomona and Swarthmore are not need-blind for international admissions. Their percentage of internationals qualifying for aid is roughly the same as the percentage for US students. More importantly, the average net price paid (after aid), is reasonably close for both US and international students. Amherst and Williams are another story. 89% and 93% of their internationals qualify for aid. The impact on net price paid is stunning. Amherst internationals pay, on average, $6255 per year. Williams is even lower at just $4996 per year. That’s not even enough to cover the cost of the food they eat in the dining halls!

It’s hard to imagine how their admissions offices could do so poorly in attracting tuition-paying internationals. Let’s face it, the international students who ace an IB program in a top feeder school and qualify for admission to these colleges are not living in grass huts. So either the admissions offices are intentionally looking for no-pay internationals (concealed athletic scholarships?) or there are serious flaws in the aid formula for wealthier (but less than full-fare) internationals. …

Pomona (2008-09)
----------------------------------------	
    4%	% international students		
   48%	% receiving aid (international)	
   52%	% receiving aid (US)	
29,420 	Avg net price paid (international)	
32,131 	Avg net price paid (US)	
		
Swarthmore (2009-10)
----------------------------------------		
    7%	% international students		
   57%	% receiving aid (international)	
   53%	% receiving aid (US)		
25,184 	Avg net price paid (international)	
33,569 	Avg net price paid (US)	

Amherst (2009-10)	
----------------------------------------	
    8%	% international students		
   89%	% receiving aid (international)	
   54%	% receiving aid (US)			
 6,255 	Avg net price paid (international)	
31,035 	Avg net price paid (US)

Williams (2009-10)
----------------------------------------	
    7%	% international students
   93%	% receiving aid (international)
   49%	% receiving aid (US)
 4,996 	Avg net price paid (international)
33,852 	Avg net price paid (US)

1) Stunning analysis. Read the whole thing. Does anyone know what is going on? (See UDPATE below.) Possibilities:

a) Williams takes its committment to Need Blind admissions seriously. Given that there are many more poor smart students than rich smart students outside the US, it is hardly surprising that the vast majority of the admitted applicants have no money. Key comparison: Difference of GPAs between internationals and domestic students at Swarthmore/Pomona versus the same differrence at Williams.

b) Williams does not do as good a job as it should it getting money out of international students. On occasion, one reads claims on College Confidential that students hide assets/income. That is obviously much easier for internationals. Do Williams policies/practices differ from Swarthmore/Pomona?

c) Williams, because of its shallow fixation on socio-ec 1 admissions, gives dramatic preferences among international applicants to those whose parents don’t have college degrees. In other words, the top of the international applicant pool is strong. But, instead of taking a reasonable cross section of the entire pool, Williams focuses on students whose parents did not go to college. They are just as (almost as?) strong as the other candidates, so why not? Morty gets to brag about how he has increased the percentage from 13% to 21%. Every feels all warm and fuzzy and inclusive.

The key problem is that there is a big correlation between parents-did-not-attend-college and poverty. So, even though Williams is not favoring poor internationals per se, it is ending up with an international student cohort that is dominated by students who need a full ride.

2) Speaking as the person who first exposed and then railed against the quota for international students at Williams, I hope that I can claim the moral high ground when I argue that this stinks. There is no way that Williams can, in good conscious, demand loans from US students while simultaneously (seeming) to offer a dramatically better deal to international students without also enrolling much smarter, more academically serious students. (If it turns out that Swarthmore/Pomona enroll a bunch of stupid but rich internationals, then I retract this complaint.)

3) Might this already be changing? Recall Joe Foster’s ’90 news that two of the 11 international students admitted early decision were from Daewon. The average student from there could afford at least $10,000 per year for Williams, and probably more.

4) My policy preference is the same as before. Dramatically increase the number of international students, but focus efforts on elite English-immersion schools like Daewon. This will, naturally, lead to an international student profile that, in terms of financial aid, matches the US student profile. Williams will a) Save millions of dollars, b) Increase the average academic quality of its student body, and c) Become a more global, and truly diverse, institution.

UPDATE: D’oh! I had assumed that Swarthmore and Pomona were need blind for international students. As HWC points out, they are not. My mistake! So, the obvious explanation has nothing to do with airports and warm weather. Swarthmore and Pomona let in a bunch of rich, but less smart, international students. Amherst and Williams are need blind and find, unsurprisingly, that if you ignore family income in admissions, the vast majority of the best international applicants are very poor. Apologies for not figuring his out sooner!

The key comparison: How much weaker are the international students at Swarthmore/Pomona compared to the international students at Williams/Amherst?

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Notes on Morty’s Minutes II

More comments on Will Slack’s ’11 excellent summary of Morty’s talk on the College’s financial situation. Part 1 here. Part II below. (By the way, is anyone reading these? Are they valuable/interesting?)
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Financial Aid for International Students

In the ever increasing category of Things-That-I-Was-Wrong-About, today’s entry is international financial aid. In discussing the Korean prep school story, I had speculated that the increasing wealth in countries like Korea, coupled with the high (relative) income of the sorts of families who would send their children to English-speaking high schools, meant that many of the international students would not be as expensive, in terms of financial aid, as their peers in the past. HWC suggested that I was wrong about this. And, as so often happens, he is right. Consider the College’s 2007-2008 Common Data Set document:

If institutional financial aid is available for undergraduate degree-seeking nonresident aliens, provide the number of undergraduate degree-seeking nonresident aliens who were awarded need-based or non-need-based aid: 127

Average dollar amount of institutional financial aid awarded to undergraduate degree-seeking nonresident aliens: $43,484

Total dollar amount of institutional financial aid awarded to undergraduate degree-seeking nonresident aliens: $5,522,437

Those are big number. Since there were a total of 132 international students at Williams, only 5 are paying the full price, as opposed to around 50% of US students. Moreover, I think that the maximum possible award is not far above (?) the $43,484 given to the average aid-receiving international students. So, HWC is correct. International students are, still, very expensive.

And, at the end of the day, this is one reason why I constantly rail against all the money that the College wastes of local pork. Instead of spending millions on these boondoggles, the College should admit another 25 international students. Having the best students in the world at Williams is much more important than the marginal increase we get in faculty recruitment/retention by spending money on local services.

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More on Korean Prep Schools: An Interview with Joe Foster ’94

What proportion of Williams students should come from abroad?  The debate on the relative merits of international candidates is an Ephblog staple, and last week, the topic re-emerged following the publication of a New York Times article on elite Korean prep schools.  The piece detailed the intense academic environment at the Daewon Foreign Language High School in Seoul, which students attend with the goal of eventually gaining acceptance to a prestigious American university.

We, however, have a man on the scene.  Williams graduate Joe Foster teaches at the Daewon School and was quoted in the Times article, testifying to the dedication of his students.  He was kind enough to discuss, via e-mail, his experience at an education institution very different from those we are accustomed to.

Ephblog: How did you wind up at the Daewon School?

Foster: Well, my parents are both teachers and I was raised at a boarding school in California, where my father was a dean, so I’ve been around education all my life. Maybe for that reason I always harbored some resistance to both school and teaching. After the dot-com crash, though, I was ready for a change and some travel, so I came to Seoul. I didn’t have much of a long-term plan, but I got a job teaching SAT prep and really took to it — in fact, I completely fell in love with teaching. I stayed at that job for four and a half years, and the first time I looked for something else I stumbled across the Daewon position. I’ve been at Daewon for just over a year.

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Koreans and Jews and 2020

Elite schools like Williams discriminated against Jewish applicants extensively 75 years ago. Today, Williams does the same against international students, especially applicants from places like Korea, China and India. EphBlog was the first to document that, at least three years ago, Williams had a quota of 6% for international students. This quota has been loosened in recent years: 47 out of 540 students in the class of 2011 are international (pdf). That 8.7% figure might not seem like a large increase from the 6% quota, but it is a 50% increase in the raw number of students (47 now versus 31 in the class of 2008).

Long time readers will recall that Williams is just doing what I recommended two years ago in a Record op-ed.

What is the solution? No sensible person recommends radical change. Start with small steps. First, select the best candidates from the waitlist to fill out the Class of 2010. Odds are that the vast majority of these will be international students. Second, increase the quota to 10 percent for the Class of 2011. If Harvard is 9 percent international, why is Williams 6 percent? Third, President Schapiro should appoint a committee of students, faculty and alumni to study the issue and report to the community. The 2002 ad hoc faculty committee on athletics provides a useful model. With more data and analysis, we will all have a better sense of what the policy should be.

8.7% is not quite 10% but I’ll give partial credit for the effort! Where is this debate going and where should it go? Recall that the College is currently engaged in the 2020 Project, an effort by the trustees and senior administrators to think hard about what Williams should look like in 2020 and what it needs to do to get there.

The single most important issue facing the College’s leadership is how “global” to make the Williams student body. Plausible cases can be made for keeping Williams where it is, at 10% international, or for going to 50% international. (You can’t have the best college in the world without the best students and at least half of the best students were not born in the United States.) Any percentage in between is reasonable as well.

Regular readers will be surprised to know that I (gasp!) do not know what the right answer is. Although international students have amazing credentials (hence the need for an admissions quota), there is some doubt as to how much they enjoy their time at Williams, how well they benefit from the experience and how connected they stay to Williams after graduation. My bias is that these concerns, while real, are little more than the same sorts of fears that caused elite colleges to restrict Jewish enrollment 75 years ago. I think that Williams ought to move quickly to 20% international and then, after a few years of evaluation and reflection, go to 50%.

But the issue is not what I (or you) think. I could be wrong! The issue is the process by which the College confronts this problem, the data that it collects, the people that it consults, the discussion which it encourages. Deciding on the best percentage for international enrollment is the most important decision to confront the leadership of Williams since President Jack Sawyer ’39 wrestled with the fraternity question almost 50 years ago. The President and Trustees should study how Sawyer handled that issue and use his approach as a template for action.

Further discussion, and a relevant news hook, below.
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A Shameful Quota

Record readers will have noted this op-ed, by some kooky alum, on the quota for international students at Williams. (Related Ephblog posts here and here.) The piece ends with:

What is the solution? No sensible person recommends radical change. Start with small steps. First, select the best candidates from the waitlist to fill out the Class of 2010. Odds are that the vast majority of these will be international students. Second, increase the quota to 10 percent for the Class of 2011. If Harvard is 9 percent international, why is Williams 6 percent? Third, President Schapiro should appoint a committee of students, faculty and alumni to study the issue and report to the community. The 2002 ad hoc faculty committee on athletics provides a useful model. With more data and analysis, we will all have a better sense of what the policy should be.

Of course, to get this process started, what we really need is a student group to agitate for change. Perhaps EAIQ: Ephs Against International Quotas. Those who don’t fight against international quotas now will seem as benighted in the eyes of our children as the Jew-baiters of 1920 appear to us today.

Brilliant, eh? Comments:

1) I am still trying to get to the bottom of the issue of targeted pools of financial aid. The claim has been made that Williams has a specific, international-only pool of money for financial aid. The target of 6% derives from the size of that pool. This might be true, but note that the College does not give this as a reason. Does anyone have better details?

2) Why isn’t there more campus controversy over this? Consider yesterday’s “candlelight vigil commemorating the lives of immigrants that were lost while trying to cross the border.” Nothing wrong with vigils, but shouldn’t students who care about the welfare of Mexicans be concerned that Williams turns down (many?) Mexican applicants each year just because they are Mexican, applicants who it would instantly accept if they lived on the other side of the Rio Grande? I would have thought so.

The thing about quotas is that, if you’re a current Williams student, even a current Williams international student, they aren’t a big deal. You made it.

I also would have expected leadership from the faculty on this issue. Is there not a single faculty member who thinks that quotas on international students are a bad idea? Faculty meetings are a great time to ask awkward questions. I also hope that the Record pursues this topic. Administration officials should be forced to explain and justify the policy. Why does Williams need a quota which puts our international enrollment almost 50% lower than Yale or Harvard’s? Dick Nesbitt, Nancy Roseman and Morty Schapiro should all get this question from the Record.

Other than a single e-mail from another alum, I see no interest in fighting this injustice. But I suppose that this was the way that most Williams students would have felt about Jew quotas in the 1920s . . .

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Quota!

Jim Kolesar has kindly replied to my concern about whether or not the College sets a quota for international students.

Williams currently expects to have international students comprise about 6% of each entering class. That number could go up or down somewhat from year to year based on the quality of the international applicant pool. I know of no college that admits international students as if they were U.S. citizens. Colleges exist in the law, including the tax law, as contributors to the national good. Their first responsibility is to advance that national good. Since students help educate each other, enrolling international students enhances the preparation that all students receive for an increasingly complex world and, happily, does broaden geographically the public good to which colleges contribute. But a college that gave itself over to educating mainly international students, which is eventually what would happen given the numbers, would have a significantly different mission, very different standing with U.S. prospective students, and greatly altered relationship with government, donors, etc.

Comments:

1) Kudos to Williams and to Kolesar for being so open and honest.

2) Williams does indeed have a quota. Interesting.

3) Jim claims that “Colleges exist in the law, including the tax law, as contributors to the national good.” That’s just wrong. There is nothing in the law, tax or otherwise, about Williams needing to contribute to the “national good.” Of course, there are some complexities with regard to non-profits and the intentions of their donors (from Ephraim Williams to the present day), but the basic legal reality is that Williams is a non-profit entity, a 501(c)(3). Nothing in the law prevents Williams from having 0% or 6% or 100% international students. Non-profits, as long as they adhere to the appropriate regulations, can spend their money as they see fit. How can Kolesar not know this?

4) Doing so more research on the question, I just discovered this passage in The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. The speaker is Radcliffe Heermance, Director of Admissions at Princeton from 1922 to 1950 and a graduate of Williams (class of 1904, I think).

“But a college that gave itself over to educating many Jewish students, which is eventually what would happen given the numbers, would have a significantly different mission, very different standing with U.S. prospective students, and greatly altered relationship with government, donors, etc.”

Heermance and others of his era felt that having “too many” Jews at places like Princeton would radically change them, generally for the worse. Let in all those Jews, however clever they might be, and non-Jewish students won’t want to attend, formerly loyal alumni donors won’t want to contribute.

I had thought that such opinions were a thing of the past.

If a meritocratic admissions process leads to a Williams than is 1/3 International students, then so be it. Anyone who argues otherwise is no better than the men 50 years ago who sought to keep out the Jews.

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A Jew Quota for the 21st Century?

Is the treatment of international applicants by Williams today equivalent to the discrimination by Ivy League schools against Jewish applicants 50 years ago? Inquiring minds want to know.

First, we have the empirical question of whether or not Williams discriminates against international applicants today. I am beginning to think that it does. For starters, international students have made up a seemingly fixed 6% of the each class for several years now. Where did that magic 6% come from, if not an implicit/explicit quota?

It could be that international students just so happen to be a strong enough group that there are about 60 of them worthy of admission each year (which, with a 50% yield, would generate 30 international Ephs in each class), but I would have predicted a secular growth in the quality and quantity of international applicants in the last decade. The world is getting smaller. Still, as I have argued on other occasions, the law of large numbers applies to admissions as elsewhere, so a steady state value of 6% is not, in and of itself, evidence of a quota.

The more damning evidence of discrimination comes in the performance of international students at Williams. Consider the first crop of Phi Beta Kappa students for the class of 2006. Now, if the population of international students is similar to the population of US students in the class of 2006, we would expect that 6% of the 26 PBKs would be international. In other words, the default hypothesis of no-discrimination would predict 1 or 2 international PBKs.

Before reading further, ask yourself how many PBKs would have to be international for you to be distrustful of the Admissions Department . . .

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International Quotas

In commentary on this thread, “Semus” wrote:

I think that the biggest discrimination that exists in the Williams admission process is the one against international students. International students and US citizens are considered to be 2 separate pools by the admission office. The admission offce targets to fill about 6 % of the incoming class with internationals; this is about 30 ppl. Last year, about 900 international applied, and about 80 were accepted (these figgures are “almost righ”–I am quoting from my memory, but the accurate data can be checked in the previous editions of The Williams Record).

Thus, the admistions rate for internationals is about 1 in 10, while it is 1 in 5 for the general college population. Of course, this differs from country to country –Williams seeks to acheive as much “global geographic diversity” as possible. This effectively means that the admissions rate for somebody from China is, say, about 1 in 50 (my friend from China who goes to Williams told me that a bunch of his friend with Math SAT of 800 were rejected — and that’s only one (albeit elitish) high school in China [BTW, imagine yourself doing SAT in Chinese, or Burmese, or Russian, while you take all of your classes in English] . I have heard a person from the admission office saying that (I parafraze) “if we had a truly need-blind admission policy [read “citizenship-blind policy”], a third of the Williams students would be Chinese, a third Eastern European, and a third everyone else.”

Given the admission rate of 1 in 20 for an average intl. student, it is not surprising that although they constitute 6% of the student body, the valecitorians in the two last years have been intl’ students (in 2004, a student from China, and in 2005 a student from Bulgaria).

This is interesting stuff and, as always, I wish we knew more details. In particular, is there really a 6% quota? Are the grounds for this quota any better than the quotas that elite schools had for Jewish students 50 years ago?

But, I think that what little evidence we have contradicts Semus’s claim. For example, consider the juniors and seniors selected into Phi Beta Kappa (more or less than highest 12.5% of GPAs in the class).

If Semus were correct, we would expect that more than 6% of these students would be international. After all, if standards are higher (competition stiffer) then the typical international student should be smarter and/or harder working and/or more academically gifted than the typical US student.

There is some evidence in looking at the juniors inducted. By my count, 4 of the 25 (16%) are international. But, among the 42 seniors inducted, none were international. So, only 4 out of the 67 Phi Beta Kappa students in the class of 2005 were international students.

And, mirable dictu, 4 is almost exactly 6% of 67. There are exactly as many international students in PBK as one would expect if the null hypothesis — that the college does not discriminate for or against international students — were true.

Now, obviously, there are a lot of complications here, especially in terms of course choices and major selection. One could do more by looking at actual GPAs, or at least various latin honors. But, big picture, there does not seem to be discrimination against, or affirmative action in favor of, international students.

Now, if the Record really wanted to write a story that everyone talked about, they would investigate the distribution of alumni children, URMs or varsity athletes among the PBKs. I wonder what they would find?

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