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Pell Grant, 5

Whitney Wilson ’90 points out this Washington Post article (and chart) about the rise in the percentage of Pell Grant recipients at elite schools like Williams. For background information on this topic, read this, this and our ten (!) part series from 2014. Let’s spend a week on this topic. Today is Day 5.

The lowest Pell share on the list belonged to Washington and Lee University — 6 percent. Will Dudley, who this year became president of the private Virginia liberal arts school, said the share rose to 11 percent this fall and he wants to lift it further. Dudley said he raised the issue of socioeconomic diversity at Washington and Lee when he was interviewing for the job. Previously, he was provost at Williams College, which had a far higher Pell share in 2015 — 22 percent. “If they didn’t want to make progress, they wouldn’t have hired me,” Dudley said.

Washington and Lee President Will Dudley said the university’s share grew to 11 percent this fall and he wants it to rise further.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “I don’t want to be a school that is near the bottom of the pack.”

EphBlog loves Will Dudley ’89, but this sort of prattle makes me less unhappy that he won’t be the next president of Williams.

First, admissions are, largely, a zero-sum game. Every high quality low-income student that Dudley brings to Washington and Lee is one less high quality low-income student who goes to school X. Does that really make the world a better place? I have my doubts.

Second, Washington and Lee is #10 on US News. Not bad, of course, but nowhere near the first tier, mainly because the quality of the student body is so much worse than at places like Williams/Amherst/Swarthmore.

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A better president would devote his energy toward improving the overall quality of the student body (which is not an easy thing to do!) rather than parading his virtue to the readers of the Washington Post.

Third, if I were a Washington and Lee trustee, I would challenge Dudley about his focus on Pell Grants as a meaningful measure of socio-economic diversity. It is not a bad measure, but, as we have discussed all week, it is not a particularly good measure because a) it changes over time via Congressional whim and b) it is too dependent on one specific point in the income distribution. If all Dudley has done in the last year is to replace a bunch of applicants from families who make $70,000 with other applicants whose families make $50,000 — and who would have been rejected in the past because their credentials were worse — because the latter are Pell-eligible), then he has accomplished very little, and certainly has no business bragging about it to the Post.

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A more economically diverse student body?

Interesting article in today’s Washington Post, entitled Pell Grant Shares at Top-Ranked Colleges: a sortable chart, with a number of Williams connections.   The data is based on kids who were freshman in 2015, so its a little dated, but it reports that 22% of Williams freshman in 2015 were eligible for Pell Grants from the Federal government.  This number was up from 21% in 2010.  According to the article, Williams is one of 39 schools amongst the top 100 national universities and top 50 liberal arts colleges (according to the US News and World Report rankings) which has a freshman class with at least 20% Pell Grant eligible students.

Two former Williams faculty members are quoted in the article, representing schools with (relatively) high and low numbers of Pell Grant eligible students.  According to the article, Vassar College adopted a need-blind admissions policy in 2007 and has seen its percentage of Pell Grant eligible students jump from 12% to 23%, without any decline in the academic credentials of its incoming students:

Catharine Hill [Williams Class of 1976 1977 and former provost of Williams], president of Vassar from 2006 to 2016, said the school’s record shows it is possible to broaden the demographic base of a selective college — drawing more students from low- and moderate-income families — without compromising standards. “In most cases, if you wanted to do more, you could do more,” Hill said. “All we had to do was go looking for kids. Our academic credentials actually went up.”

On the other hand, Washington and Lee University has gone in the other direction, with its percentage of Pell Grant eligible students dropping from 11% to 6% between 2010 and 2015.  Washington and Lee wants to reverse this trend, though, at least according to its new President:

Will Dudley [Williams Class of 1989 and also a former provost of Williams], who this year became president of the private Virginia liberal arts school, said the share rose to 11 percent this fall and he wants to lift it further. Dudley said he raised the issue of socioeconomic diversity at Washington and Lee when he was interviewing for the job. Previously, he was provost at Williams College, which had a far higher Pell share in 2015 — 22 percent. “If they didn’t want to make progress, they wouldn’t have hired me,” Dudley said.

The entire article and the underlying data is interesting.  No one seems to to question that the  percentage of Pell Grant eligible students is a good proxy for socio-economic diversity.  I wonder if there are different metrics to try to measure the same thing.

Should Williams make additional efforts to recruit and admit more students who are eligible for Pell Grants?

 

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Dudley ’89 on Financial Aid V

Provost Will Dudley’s discussion (pdf) of financial aid at Williams is equal parts useful and misleading. Let’s spend five days discussing it. Today is Day 5.

For instance, aided students have the same level of support for studying abroad as they have for studying at Williams. Books are free for aided students. We also pay attention to the discretionary allowance built into financial aid packages, recognizing that there are hidden costs to being a college student: doing laundry, getting a haircut, buying some pizza. We’ve increased that allowance by about 25 percent in the last five years to reflect how those costs have increased.

1) One recurrent complaint from faculty is how high on the hog Williams students live, even “poor” ones on financial aid. How much can you really be struggling if you can still afford to take nice spring break vacations with your friends?

2) The “free books” is almost certainly an absurd boondoggle, as we noted at its creation 7 years ago. Discussion here and here. Recall:

Let’s consider some reasons why the 1,000 students might spend much more than $400 per student now that books are free.

a) Why not buy all the recommended books as well as the required ones? They are free!

b) Why not buy new books rather than used books? They are free!

c) Why wouldn’t professors significantly increase the number/price of both required and recommended books? Right now, I (and other Williams teachers) try to take care in selecting books. We don’t won’t to screw students, especially students on financial aid. (Although we recognize that the College is supposed to provide enough aid to cover textbooks, we recognize that the aid may not be enough and, more important, that any leftover money can be used by students for whatever they want.) Now, books are free to half the students. And the other half of students almost all come from extremely rich families, at least relative to Williams professors. No need to worry about their book expenses!

The Record should do an update on the program. It has almost certainly been a failure, which is why no (?) other elite school does the same.

Back to Dudley:

Thirty years ago, 38 percent of our students came from families that couldn’t afford to pay the sticker price. Today, more than half of the first-year class receives aid.

This is incredibly misleading, for reasons that we have gone over again and again and again.

Summary: Understanding the change (if any) in economic diversity at Williams is easy. Just tell us the family income of the 10th poorest, 50th poorest and 100th poorest student in each class for the last 20 years. Previous discussion here. Williams has this data easily accessible since all those families filled out financial aid forms. (It is much harder to estimate trends in the incomes of the richest families.) The fact that Williams declines to make this data available makes me highly suspicious about how much of an increase, if any, there has been in economic diversity.

Today’s average aided family contributes a little less than $18,000 toward the $100,000 that Williams spends per student; $18,000 is about the same contribution that aided families paid 30 years ago, in inflation-adjusted dollars, when Williams spent about $40,000 per student, also adjusted for inflation. So compared to 1986, today’s aided students are paying the same price for a Williams experience that is superior in innumerable ways.

Interesting but debatable. Williams spends $60,000 more per year in inflation-adjusted dollars than it did 30 years ago. Is it really that much better? I have my doubts . . .

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Dudley ’89 on Financial Aid IV

Provost Will Dudley’s discussion (pdf) of financial aid at Williams is equal parts useful and misleading. Let’s spend five days discussing it. Today is Day 4.

The loans that we package are for aided families whose income is above $75,000, and the amount of loan that we expect a family to take starts at $1,000 per year up to a maximum of $4,000 a year, based on family income and assets. It’s important to understand that a loan package is a recommendation. Families can and do choose to borrow more or less than we recommend. About half our families borrow what we suggest. About a quarter borrow more than we suggest, and about a quarter borrow less. So that’s some indication that our recommendations are pretty good.

Or its an indication that the recommendations suck and that measuring “need” is a farce.

This is the central fraud of “need-blind” aid: there is no good, objective measure of what each family “needs.” Yes, it is possible to make some gross generalizations: billionaires can pay the full sticker price. But, even though Williams has access to your tax returns and financial statements, it is still unable to accurately estimate how much money you will “need” to borrow.

And note that Dudley is still guessing misleading (or just clueless?) in his claim to know exactly how much “families borrow.” From the Wall Street Journal:

An increasing number of private student lenders are rolling out parent loans, which allow borrowers to get funds to pay for their children’s education without putting the students on the hook. … Colleges are helping push them in part because of a quirk in federal calculations. Unlike ordinary federal student loans, the parent loans don’t count on a scorecard in which the U.S. Education Department discloses universities’ median student debt at graduation. … Education Department spokeswoman Dorie Nolt said all private loans, whether given to students or parents, are excluded in the scorecard because the government doesn’t have access to private loan originations. She added that federal parent loans also are excluded because the scorecard focuses on undergraduate students.

Provost Will Dudley has only a rough idea how much “families borrow.” He doesn’t know about loans that parents take out. He doesn’t know about private loans.

Best part:

Colleges including Stanford, Boston College and Carnegie Mellon University are referring parents to the loans through emails or by putting them on lists of preferred loan options.

Does Williams? The Record should find out.

Back to Dudley:

There are schools out there that are “no loan,” meaning they don’t recommend that students borrow. But it doesn’t mean students at those schools aren’t borrowing. In fact, when you look at what students are actually borrowing per capita, even at the 44 best-resourced colleges in the country, they’re borrowing less at Williams than they are at a number of “no-loan” schools. More than half our students don’t borrow anything at all. The ones who do borrow are graduating with an average of about $15,000 in total debt. The national average is close to $30,000 for those who borrow.

Interesting. Comparing the borrowing rates at Williams with other elite schools would make for an great senior thesis. What predicts borrowing behavior? Note that the data landscape surrounding this issue has changed dramatically in the last few years, with the launching of the College Scorecard project. Dudley has amazing data about what students (not “families”) borrow in federal (not private) loans. (And, since most borrowing is done by students and from the Feds, this is good data.)

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Dudley ’89 on Financial Aid III

Provost Will Dudley’s discussion (pdf) of financial aid at Williams is equal parts useful and misleading. Let’s spend five days discussing it. Today is Day 3.

We run a program in the fall called WOW—Windows On Williams. We’ve nearly doubled the size of this program in the last couple of years because it’s so effective. We fly in, at our expense, about 200 low-income and first-generation students to spend a couple days on campus, meet each other, meet other Williams students and attend classes. The program is competitive; we get about 1,200 applicants. The students we select are very strong candidates for admission, and getting them here on campus dramatically increases the chances that they apply and will choose to enroll here if we admit them.

We have a similar previews program in the spring for admitted students who haven’t already participated in WOW and can’t afford to come here on their own. We want to make sure they get a chance to experience this place in person before they decide where to go to college. Our admission office travels to high schools where low-income and first-generation students are likely to be found. … That’s what need-seeking is: doing everything we can in a very active way to admit as many talented, low-income students as we can.

Interesting stuff. Comments:

1) There is a great senior thesis to be written about how “effective” (or not) WOW is. Recall Peter Nurnberg’s ’09 excellent thesis about predicting which accepted students will choose Williams. This is an important topic, of interest to Williams and to elite colleges more broadly.

2) Has anyone at Williams — including the dozens of capable folks who report to Dudley — actually studied this? I have my doubts. But tell us about it if you have! Note that obvious selection bias inherit in Will’s claim that “getting them here on campus dramatically increases the chances” such students apply and enroll. The problem is that comparing students who do WOW with students who don’t do WOW is, potentially, useless because, almost by definition, students who do WOW are much more interested in Williams than students who don’t do WOW. They would be much more likely to apply/enroll than other students even if WOW did not exist. In fact, for all Will knows, WOW might actually decrease the percentages of such students who apply/enroll. (My bet, of course, is that Will is right and that WOW works.)

The right way to test WOW would be a standard A/B approach. Randomly select 10% (or whatever) of the students who met the criteria for WOW and then don’t invite them. If those students apply/enroll at the same rates as the WOW students, then WOW doesn’t do anything.

The College, like most modern bureaucracies, ought to do much more randomized testing to find out what works and what does not.

3) Even without a proper randomized controlled trial (RCT), you can still try to estimate the causal effect of WOW using various statistical approaches. A statistics major ought to jump on this opportunity.

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Dudley ’89 on Financial Aid II

Provost Will Dudley’s discussion (pdf) of financial aid at Williams is equal parts useful and misleading. Let’s spend five days discussing it. Today is Day 2.

Thirty years ago, about 85 percent of students at Williams were white Americans; 15 percent were either students of color or international students. Today, just over 50 percent of the first-year class is white and American, and the number of students of color and international students is close to 50 percent.

1) “white and American” means something very different today than it did 30 years ago. Back then, no one (?) thought that checking Hispanic or Native American mattered much, or was a plausible strategy. Now, Williams is filled with “students of color” like this:

During one meeting of many, he [the college counselor] began, “There is something I want to suggest to you, but am afraid to.” “Why?” “I am afraid you won’t like what I’m going to ask you to do.” Of course, I asked him to tell me what it was. He then suggested that, on the Common Applications, I identify myself as Puerto Rican.

Depending on how you reckon, to say I am Puerto Rican is a half-truth or completely untrue. My mother was born there and raised in NYC since age six or so, and my father couldn’t be called anything but Caucasian. On other surveys, I’d sometimes checked the Puerto Rican and White boxes, sometimes just White.

I was bothered by Mr. Pallo’s suggestion, but I’d learned to trust him, and my parents supported his suggestion. A year ago, in fact, they had asked if I would use my mother’s maiden name, Reyes, hyphenated with my last name, Landsman, in my applications. I had flatly refused that. Needless to say, when I discussed my counselor’s suggestion with them, they supported him.

I asked Mr. Pallo if I could check both boxes. He responded with something along the lines of: “My fear is that that would be passed over, that someone would see ‘White’ and ‘Puerto Rican’ would be ignored.” After little more deliberation, I decided to trust him, and count it a small cost. So in that one question, I was Puerto Rican, though nothing else in my applications referred to that status.

Sure enough, I was admitted to Williams. Early freshman year, I received a letter from the Admissions Office. It stated that I had declared myself a minority on my application, specifically Puerto Rican. It asked if I still wanted to be considered so, and if not, to contact them and say otherwise. I thought about this a while. I did not particularly feel Puerto Rican, never have, and still don’t. Mom only spoke Spanish at home when she was being cute, or angry at us. I am not close with my PR family. But I saw no reason to take what I saw as a small risk of some kind of retribution, and I left Admissions with its original impressions.

So I was one of the however many “Latinos” in my year, though I doubt anyone at Williams outside of Bascom knew it.

People like Will Dudley love to signal the oh-so-high virtue of Williams by bragging about its diversity numbers. How accurate are those numbers? Is Williams really only 50% “white and American?” I will take the over on that!

In the last 15 years, we’ve put an increasingly explicit emphasis on socioeconomic diversification. So in the Class of 2019, slightly more than 20 percent of the students are eligible for the federal government’s PELL scholarship program for lower-income Americans. Fifteen years ago, that number was closer to 10 percent.

Doubtful. 15 years ago was 2001. Morty Schapiro, Will’s buddy, was President. Did he hate poor kids? Did he not care about socio-economic diversity? Utter bollocks! Williams has been bragging about its socio-economic diversity for decades.

The real story here (and why won’t the Record report it?!) involves the changing definition of socio-economic diversity. You get what you measure. PELL grants are a useful measure but they are hardly perfect. They only depend on income. The kid of a retired millionaire is just as eligible as an actual poor person.

And this was one reason why, just a few years ago, Williams measured socio-economic diversity solely by counting students from families in which neither parent had a four year college degree. (More background here and here.) That metric also had problems, but using it consistently allowed Morty and others to brag when it went up. But, now they no longer report that metric so we are barely aware that it is going down. Williams uses a new metric and gets to brag as it goes up. Moral signalling never goes out of style!

My position on these issues is the same as always:

Admit that smartest, most academically ambitious, English-fluent students in the world. Some will be poor, some rich. Some black, some white. Some born in India, some in Indiana. Some can play basketball, some can’t. Some will have parents who went to Williams, some will have parents who did not graduate college. None of that matters. Ignore it for admissions purposes. Look at grades, look at scores. Summarize it in the academic rating. Admit and attract the best. Williams should have more internationals, more high ARs (many of them Asian Americans), fewer tips and fewer URMs then it has today. I suspect that the ideal class of a typical Williams faculty member is much closer to my ideal class than it is to the actual student body at Williams. So, I wish that the faculty were much more involved in admissions.

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Dudley ’89 on Financial Aid I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dudley ’89 to Washington and Lee

Professor and Provost Will Dudley ’89 has been appointed president of Washington and Lee. Full e-mail from Adam Falk below the break. Comments:

1) Congrats to Will, a longtime friend (or, at least, frenemy) of EphBlog.

2) This opens up the race to succeed Falk. Dudley, because of his insider status and great alumni connections was always the favorite, especially since Williams has a history of following outsider presidents (like Falk) with insiders.

3) Washington and Lee (ranked #14 by US News) is a much more prestigious (and well-endowed) institution than Wooster (Bolton) and Dickinson (Roseman), much more the sort of school that top Williams administrators go to. Or maybe that was just true historically and now the competition for college presidencies is much tougher?

4) From the news article:

W&L, a school that traces its heritage to President George Washington and was led by Gen. Robert E. Lee following the Civil War, has sometimes struggled to reconcile its rich history with current-day issues of race and diversity. Displays of the Confederate flag at Lee Chapel, where Lee is interred, have generated controversy.

Like the 26 presidents before him, Dudley is a white male.

“At the very front end of the process, we were conscious of that,” Owens said in response to a question about how a desire for diversity influenced the school’s search.

Women and minorities made the short list, he said, “but at the end of the day, we chose somebody that was going to be the best candidate for W&L.”

I would suspect that the Black Lives Matter folks would have serious complaints about a school named after a slave owner (Washington) and a confederate general (Lee). If I were Dudley, I would do everything I could to ensure that black students at W&L were of comparable academic quality to non-black students. There is no better way to create a militant BLM movement on campus that excessive affirmative action and the academic mismatch which inevitably follows.

5) Was Bolton (also on the market over the last year) on the short list at W&L?

6) Most interesting decision that Dudley faces? I would go with fraternities/sororities, which 80% (!) of W&L students participate in. Was Will asked about this? Did he offer any thoughts? Williams College is, of course, famous for being the first (?) elite liberal arts college to get rid of Greek Life, more than 50 years ago. I bet that Dudley thinks that Williams made the right choice then. If so, what choice should W&L make today?

Read more

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Simpler Financial Aid Calculator III

Williams is promoting a simpler financial aid calculator. This article merits three days of discussion. Today is Day 3.

Wellesley is more economically diverse, with close to 20 percent of students receiving Pell grants. Williams has recently been making an effort to become more so, Mr. Dudley said, and about 22 percent of this year’s freshman class receive Pell grants, up from an average of 18 percent in previous years.

What rubbish! Is the New York Times stupid or is Will Dudley misleading them or both? Williams has been “making an effort” to become more economically diverse for at least two decades and probably much longer. Where does the “recently” come from? Consider:

Schapiro said that “recent increases in both the number of international students and in the overall socio-economic diversity of our student body are examples of steps in the right direction.”

That is former President Morty Schapiro, Will Dudley’s good friend, opining about economic diversity in 2003. That was 12 years ago! Examples from the 1990s and 1980s would be easy to find. In fact, we can probably go all the way back to the 1930s and quote President Tyler Dennett ’04 on Williams having too many “nice boys.”

Isn’t it weird how the people who run Williams are always claiming (just pretending? actually believing?) that they are doing something new and path-breaking when, in fact, it is the same stuff year after year? It’s like they haven’t been in charge for decades!

Now, in Will’s defense, it might be the case that Williams has changed its focus in admissions, given more preference to students who would receive Pell grants. Has it? Reader comments welcome. For at least the last 15 years, Williams has measured socio-economic diversity by looking at the percentage of first generation students. It would be weird to change this now, without discussion, since doing so makes historical comparisons difficult. But it might also be sensible to do so since more (most?) observers seem to be using percentage-Pell as a standard (and easy to measure/verify) metric for comparing socio-economic diversity acrooss colleges.

Informed commentary welcome.

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Simpler Financial Aid Calculator II

Williams is promoting a simpler financial aid calculator. This article merits three days of discussion. Today is Day 2.

“We want it to be as easy as possible for prospective students and families to know how much it would cost to attend Williams,” said William Dudley, the provost at the college, in northwestern Massachusetts. “People know our sticker price — $60,000. They don’t realize that the average family receiving financial aid is paying $13,000.”

First, if I were Will Dudley’s agent, I would be doing my best to get him quoted in the New York Times. Well done! Will is probably the leading internal candidate to succeed Adam Falk in a few years, as well as a possible president at other elite liberal arts colleges. The more that he appears in the prestige press, the better his chances.

Second, do the people who are plausible candidates at Williams truly not realize the vast financial aid resources that we shower on students? I have my doubts.

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Simpler Financial Aid Calculator I

Williams is promoting a simpler financial aid calculator. This article merits three days of discussion. Today is Day 1.

A simplified financial-aid calculator — much easier to use than the federally mandated calculators that most colleges create — has begun spreading beyond Wellesley College, where it began two years ago.

The spread, to the University of Virginia and Williams College, starting Monday, raises the possibility that more colleges will follow and that information on actual college costs will become more widely available. Currently, many low- and middle-income families are unaware of how much financial aid is potentially available to them, research has found.

Maybe. The whole notion that there are tens of thousands of students with elite college credentials who are unaware of financial aid realities is, mostly, untrue. These large numbers come for defining elite to include SAT scores below the Williams average and by ignoring high school grades. The vast majority of poor high school students who don’t know what a great deal Williams is have zero chance of being accepted.

Here are the two calculators. There is a great story to be written by the Record which would highlight the types of families that are most screwed over by Williams in the financial aid process. These families would look identical to the first (simpler) calculator but then end up with very different aid packages once the second calculation has done its best to punish frugality.

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Dudley ’89 Trustee at MCLA

Professor Will Dudley ’89 is now a trustee at MCLA, the Massachusetts College of the Liberal Arts, the former North Adams State.

What should he do?

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Not Like You


Great essay from Professor Will Dudley ’89:

Three years earlier, on his first day of kindergarten, my son came home to face the standard gauntlet of questions from his eager parents: “How was it? Did you have fun? What did you learn?” He paused, earnestly trying to distill the essence of his new experiences. “Dad,” he finally said, with the countenance of one about to deliver a solemn proclamation, “I’m a Red Sox fan.” He let the announcement sink in, and then asked his own question: “What sport do they play?”

He had left the house that morning not knowing the Red Sox are a baseball team. He returned that afternoon identifying himself as a fan. What happened? In a few short hours at a public school in rural Massachusetts he encountered and absorbed a basic truth: “Red Sox fan” is who we are. The logic was straightforward and inexorable. We are New Englanders. The Red Sox play for New England. Therefore, we are Red Sox fans.

Read the whole thing.

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A. Hopkins Parker and Rob Benson: names not easily forgotten

I had to read A Separate Peace by John Knowles in high school. Perhaps you’ve read it too. If you have, and if you’re an athlete, you probably recall the following passage.

One day [Phineas] broke the school swimming record. He and I were fooling around in the pool, near a big bronze plaque marked with events for which the school kept records — 50 yards, 100 yards, 220 yards. Under each was a slot with a marker fitted into it, showing the name of the record-holder, his year, and his time. Under “100 Yards Free Style” there was “A. Hopkins Parker — 1940 — 53.0 seconds.”

“A. Hopkins Parker?” Finny squinted up at the name. “I don’t remember any A. Hopkins Parker.”

“He graduated before we got here.”

“You mean that record’s been up the whole time we’ve been at Devon and nobody’s busted it yet?” It was an insult to the class, and Finny had tremendous loyalty to the class, as he did to any group he belonged to, beginning with him and me and radiating outward past the limits of humanity toward spirits and clouds and stars…. He said blurringly, “I have a feeling I can swim faster than A. Hopkins Parker.”

So, with his friend Gene (the narrator) as the only witness, Phineas swims 100 yards in 52.3 seconds, then declines to repeat the feat or tell anyone about it. Gene concludes, “The Devon School record books contained a mistake, a lie, and nobody knew it but Finny and me. A. Hopkins Parker was living in a fool’s paradise, wherever he was.”

The repetition of “A. Hopkins Parker” is, to me, quite funny but also captures some of the prestige and solemnity of these school record boards. I was reminded of this the other day when I came across the name of Rob Benson on the Big Games website run by Will Dudley ’89. Rob Benson — why did that sound so familiar? Is he a Williams alum or something? And then it hit me.

In the early ’90s, the Williams cross-country team had pool practices on Monday nights, and in between bouts of thrashing around in the water I’d look up at the wall and see the school swimming records … including the one held by Rob Benson. 400-yard individual medley, 4:02.09, 1988.

I didn’t overlap with Rob at Williams, nor have I seen footage of him in action, nor do I have any particular fondness for the 400-yard individual medley. And yet seeing Rob’s name again — a faceless name with nothing attached to it but an event, a time and a year — filled me with nostalgia. Good old Rob Benson — he sure was a hell of a swimmer, wasn’t he?

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Big Games


A message from Professor Will Dudley ’89 about his Big Games site.

Big Games
The Spiritual Signifigance of Sports

The website has been dormant since the end of my course last fall.

I’m bringing it back to life now, as part of my effort to write a book on the significance of sports.

I’m hoping to benefit from your collective experience and wisdom, as I try to find the perfect examples and stories to illustrate the themes I want to discuss.

Helpful contributions will be gratefully acknowledged in the book.

I’ve just opened two new forums, each of which poses a few specific questions for discussion: 1) Greatest Team Ever, and 2) Ugly Winners.

I will be posing new questions weekly, so please visit often. Even better, use the RSS feed to keep you automatically aware of new activity on the site. (If you would like to do this but don’t know how, let me know, and I will be happy to help.)

Please invite friends and family to participate too. The more the merrier.

Looking forward to the conversation,

Will

Check it out. Did any readers take Will’s class? How did you like it?

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