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Provost Presentation, 5

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 5.

If your provost is an economist, his first instinct will to draw budget constraints. And so we get:

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1) If we fix our financial aid spending at its current level, then we can only slide up and down the curve on which the purple dot currently sits. If we want to give more aid to currently aided students, then we need to reduce the percentage who receive financial aid in the first place.

2) If we increase the financial aid budget, then we can work with a new budget curve, up-and-to-the-left of where we currently are.

3) Biggest surprise of the entire presentation is how “cheap” it would be to become as “generous” as Princeton. It looks like just $4 million of extra spending would allow us to match them. That isn’t much! There are 1,000 or so students who get no financial aid. Imagine that we raised the price of Williams from $67,000 to $71,000. There is your $4 million right there! EphBlog votes Yes!

4) However, the central problem with this presentation, indeed with almost all presentations at Williams, is its refusal to grapple with the key issue: the quality of the student body. I assume (hope!) that such presentations are created and presented to the trustees, that the people who run Williams worry about us maintaining our status as the #1 liberal arts college in the world, and that the key to that status is the academic quality of each new incoming class of first years. When will Dukes Love share that analysis with us?

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Provost Presentation, 4

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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Provost Presentation, 3

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 3.

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1) This is the ugliest graphic I have ever seen in a Williams presentation. Eph (honorary degree in 2000) Edward Tufte would say:

  • Be consistent with your x-axes across the presentation. This (using academic years like 2016/17) is the third different choice you have made. Best is probably using “2018” to mean values for the 2017/2018 academic year. Also, there is no need to show every year. Doing so is too busy. Every 5th year, plus the start and end years, would be fine.
  • Don’t show regression models and summary statistics. How many people in your audience will know what R2 = 0.9138 means? Will you have time to explain it? Should you spend your/their valuable time trying to teach your audience about linear models?
  • If you insist on showing nonsense, then at least show a sensible number of significant digits for your nonsense. R2 = 0.91 would be more sensible, perhaps even R2 = 0.9.
  • Think harder about the substance of what you are trying to convey. Would even a statistically sophisticated reader care about the exact values of R2, much less for the values of the intercept from your linear regression? No! Your main (only?) point is about the slopes. And that is an interesting point! Including all the other statistical arcana hides the interesting facts you have discovered.
  • The purple/gold bars at either side of the graphic are very hard to interpret. I realize that you can explain them on the fly, but the need for explanation is often the sign of poor graphics.

2) Your key point is that Williams sticker price has gone up about 4 times faster than median income but only half as fast as 95th percentile income. Good stuff! And worth thinking about. This is why the regression lines are interesting, not because of the intercept for the R2‘s. But the exact coefficient values don’t really matter. All that you (and your audience) care about are relative magnitudes. So, perhaps better would be to just show a line graph of these two ratios directly. Graph the ratio of family income (median and 95th) to the Williams sticker price. That would make clear that former in falling very fast, i.e., that the cost of Williams has gone from a smallish portion of median family income to almost equal to it. (The ratio has fallen from about 3 to close to 1.) The ratio has also fallen for the 95th percentile but, in this case, the drop has been much less, from about 6 to 3. (You could also present this in percentage terms: The cost of Williams has gone from 30% (15%) of the median (95th percentile) family income up to 95% (26%).

3) Indeed, the best method would be to have two slides. The first shows the raw line graphs, so that people can see the actual numbers. You say a few words about how, yes, the price of Williams has increased. (Make a joke about the class of 1988’s class song with refrain “Sixty thou to live with cows,” the punch line being that this was the 4 year cost 30 years ago.) But the only people who pay full freight have seen their incomes increase as well. (Also make a few remarks about stagnation for the median family.) Then, next slide, show the ratios. People like more slides rather than fewer.

4) Math quiz for attentive readers: If family incomes at the 95th percentile have gone up twice as fast as the Williams sticker price, then how could the sticker price as a percentage of 95th percentile family income also increased from 15% to 26%?

5) All these numbers reinforce my claim that Williams pricing strategy, like that of other elite schools, is sensible. We are selling a luxury good to rich people. They are not deterred by price. In fact, they often (and not incorrectly!) view price as a signal of quality. We should continue to raise prices at a fast rate while, simultaneously, offering extensive financial aid to non-rich admitted students. Relevant New York Times analysis here. Worth spending time on?

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Provost Presentation, 2

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 2.

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This is a highly misleading graphic. It suggests that Williams is much more socio-economically diverse today than it was in 2005. This is untrue! (Note that I am not accusing Love of being purposely misleading. EphBlog loves Provost Love! I suspect that he has too poor (?) an opinion of his audience to confront them with the full richness of the data he has on this topic.)

1) Show us more data! Although it is useful to see the percentage of Pell Grants, Williams has, easily accessible, much more data on socio-economic diversity. If you really want to inform the audience, share as much of the data as you (easily) can.

2) Start with the percentage of each class that is “Socio-Ec 1,” also known as SEC1. Recall that, for decades, Williams has been tracking socio-economic diversity by tagging every applicant’s status as SEC1 if a) neither parent has a BA and b) the student applies for financial aid. This may not be the best measure of economic diversity, but it is the one that Love has the most data for and the one that has had the most impact on admissions. Alas, this time series won’t show nearly as happy a story as the one on Pell Grants, but Love owes his audience the whole truth.

3) Show a line graph of inflation-adjusted Eph family incomes for a couple of places in the income distribution. Williams has great data on family income, again going back decades, for all students who apply for financial aid. So, we know the 100th, 200th, 500th poorest families (out of 2,000) each year. Show us that data.

3) This five part series on Pell Grants (1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) from last fall is useful background.

4) Recall that Pell grant percentages of have been increasing for reasons unrelated to changes in the socio-economic diversity of the student body.

At Ivy-Plus colleges, the fraction of students receiving Pell grants increased from 12.1% to 16.8% between 2000-2011, an increase that has been interpreted as evidence of growth in low-income access at these colleges. In Online Appendix F, we show that the apparent discrepancy between trends in Pell shares and our percentile-based statistics, which show little or no change in low-income access, is driven by two factors. First, Congress raised the income eligibility threshold for Pell Grants significantly between 2000 and 2011, mechanically increasing the share of families that qualified for Pell grants. Second, as noted above, incomes fell sharply during the 2000s at the bottom of the distribution, further increasing the number of families whose incomes placed them below the Pell eligibility threshold. We estimate that the changes in eligibility rules mechanically increased Pell shares at Ivy-Plus colleges by approximately 2.9 pp from 2000-2011, while the decline in real incomes increased Pell shares by approximately 2.5 pp (Online Appendix Figure IX). Together, these changes fully account for the observed increase in Pell shares. Accounting for these factors, the Pell data imply that there was no significant change in the parental income distribution of students at Ivy-Plus colleges between 2000-2011.

The same is almost certainly true at Williams.

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Provost Presentation, 1

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 1.

Although dual y-axis charts are evil, this one provides some useful time series.

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Like all of Gaul, the last 60 years of applications to Williams can be divided into three parts. First, we have the single sex era, with 1,000 to 2,000 applications and an impressive yield of over 50%. Second, the initial 30 years of co-education, with applications mostly stable between 4,000 and 5,000. Third, the current era, with much higher raw application numbers, stable yield and falling admission rates. Comments:

1) Did Williams really yield around 65% in the mid-1960s? That seems implausible. Williams has been losing out to Harvard/Yale/Princeton for decades. I doubt that the 60s were much different. Perhaps Williams used more early decision? Perhaps there was more information sharing, allowing Williams to reject students who it knew would turn it down?

2) The shown yield rate is highly misleading. Students admitted early decision should not be included. They have no (meaningful) choice so it makes no sense to include them in a yield calculation. (Doing so also makes it harder to compare our yield with our competitors who don’t use early decision.) Yield should be measured only from the regular decision admittees. Doing this leaves our yield closer to 30%.

3) Stacked bar charts are not very helpful, especially with this color scheme. (Who can see the change in class size in the light green at the bottom?) Line graphs would be better. A better design for the same data:

  • Three separate panels, stacked on top of each other, each with the same x-axis. All feature line graphs.
  • The x-axis should be academic years, not class years. We want to know how many people applied to Williams in the fall of 2017. Telling us class year just forces us to do math in our heads.
  • The top panel should be raw applications. This is where the process starts. In addition to the raw numbers, we should have some shading or other indication of major changes like the start of co-education or the first time Common Ap usage was above 500. Even better would be to show multiple line graphs which broke total applications into a couple of different categories, like domestic versus international.
  • The second panel should be line graphs of admitted and enrolled students. Since the y-axis range would be much narrower than panel 1, we could easily see the increase in the size of the college (doubling with co-education and then increasing by another 10% since the 80s). Ideally, this panel would also include the number of students admitted early decision.
  • The third panel would combine the information from the top two to show us line graphs of percentage admitted and percentage yielded.
  • Throughout the three panels, we should see information associated with changes in the process. For example, I have a vague memory of applications rising/falling depending on how specific the supplemental essay was.
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Provost Presentation at Alumni Leadership Weekend

Provost Dukes Love kindly shared the slides (pdf) from the presentation he gave on Saturday May 5 to the muckety-mucks at the Alumni Leadership event. Thanks! Dukes is EphBlog’s favorite member of the Williams Administration because he is so committed to transparency, as every real academic should be. (Provost Will Dudley ’89, on the other hand, refused to share his presentations from similar events.)

Lots of interesting material, like this chart:

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Worth spending a few days going through in detail?

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Provost Documents

Provost Dukes Love is, officially, EphBlog’s favorite senior member of the Williams Administration. (Dean Dave will always be our favorite administrator.) Dukes is (almost?) as committed to transparency as we are!

1) Recall his decision to make public all historical versions of the Common Data Set.

2) Having considered my question, he made public his presentation materials (pdf) from the Alumni Leadership meeting. Well done!

3) He makes other material public, even before we ask! Consider this Reporting on Staffing (pdf).

Any interest in spending a few days going through these materials?

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EphBlog Loves Provost Love

EphBlog loves new Williams Provost Dukes Love. Why? Recall our recurrent complaints about transparency with regard to already published College documents, like the Common Data Set reports. Formerly, Williams only provided the reports back to 2011. Now, it provides an archive back to 1998. Well done Provost Love!

But because this era of Perestroika might end, EphBlog has taken the precaution of saving permanent copies: cds_2010-11, cds_2009-10, cds_2008-09, cds_2007-08, cds_2005-06, cds_2006-07, cds_2004-05, cds_2003-04, cds_2002-03, cds_2001-02, cds_2000-01, cds_1999-00 and cds_1998-99.

It is especially nice to see a provost committed to transparency as Williams begins the re-accreditation process. Long time readers will recall that we devoted the month of January 2009 to going through the last re-accredidation report. Alas, we did not save a copy! Is one available somewhere?

UPDATE: A loyal reader points to this archive of material related to accreditation. Thanks! And kudos to Williams for making this material available even a decade later. Anyone interested in following this round of accreditation should study the last round closely.

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Funding for Early Childhood Education

From last year:

Dear Massachusetts Lawmakers,

As you consider the FY16 budget, we, the undersigned economists, would ask you to increase available funding for early childhood education.

High quality early childhood education elevates the quality of the workforce; children who have had this education experience an improvement in their cognitive, social and behavioral skills, which allow them to make greater contributions when they enter the workforce.

The 85 economist signatories included from Williams: Roger Bolton, Ralph Bradburd, Sarah Jacobson, David Love, Peter J. Montiel, Greg Phelan, Michael Samson, John Sheahan, Anand Swamy and David Zimmerman. Alas, there is almost zero evidence for this claim. Consider a recent summary from those right-wing (!) loons at Brookings:

State investments in center-based school readiness programs for preschoolers (pre-K), whether targeted for poor children or universally implemented, have expanded more rapidly than evaluations of their effects. Given the current interest and continuing expansion of state funded pre-K, it is especially important to be clear about the nature of the available evidence for the effectiveness of such programs. Despite widespread claims about proven benefits from pre-K, there is actually strikingly little credible research about the effectiveness of public pre-K programs scaled for statewide implementation.

More background from the Washington Post here. Comments:

1) The underlying organization, Massachusetts Fair Share, seems fairly hard left, or at least Bernie Sanders socialist left. Is that a reasonable characterization?

2) The Economics Department has a (correct?) reputation as being the least politically liberal department at Williams. That is a standard situation at liberal arts colleges since economists are more likely than other PhD’s of being skeptical progressive ideas like single-payer health care and much more aware of concepts like opportunity cost.

3) Anyone else surprised to see old bulls like Bolton and Bradburd on this list? Maybe they really are fans of the Mass government spending more money on pre-K and, therefore, less on other worthy item X. Or maybe their signatures are more a polite nod to faculty colleague who was lobbying them for the cause. If so, which Williams faculty member is most heavily involved in Massachusetts Fair Share? My first (uncharitable?) guess would be Michael Samson.

4) Interesting to see Dukes Love involved with this. Hope he is more evidence-based when it comes to his new job as Provost!

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Love the New Provost

The title is a description, not a commandment. From Adam Falk:

It’s my great pleasure to share with you the news that economics faculty member David Love, whom we all know as Dukes, will serve as the college’s next provost. The board has now approved his appointment, which will begin September 1.

Comments:

1) How did Love get the nickname “Dukes?”

2) The inside track on Adam Falk’s successor is now complete: incoming Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom, incoming Provost David Love and Dean of the Faculty Denise Buell. After an outsider president (like Falk), the natural inclination will be for the trustees to choose an insider, and those three will (presumably) hold the three most senior faculty leadership positions. Perhaps Buell is the one to bet on because Williams has often (?) promoted Deans of the Faculty to President (Oakley? Chandler? Others?) and because there will be huge pressure to pick a woman.

3) The only appearance that Love has made on EphBlog was when he received tenure 6 years ago. A good sign or a bad sign for his future success as Provost?

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