Change of aid policy needed at Williams

I am writing in light of Princeton University’s new financial aid policies and their potential impact on Williams. Basically, Princeton is dropping its loan requirement for students whose family income is under $40,000 a year. In addition, it’s reducing its loans for students whose families make between $40,000 and $57,000, and is no longer taxing home equity assets for families with incomes under $90,000.

Stanford and Yale have developed new policies in response, and Williams could easily do the same.

As it stands, Princeton’s abolition of student loans will have a huge impact on the choices students make – on the degree of economic freedom they can expect not only during college, but in the years afterward.

As a senior currently looking for a job, loans and their imminent repayment are major factors in the kinds of opportunities I can feasibly pursue, and I know many seniors with far higher loan burdens.

If these policies had existed when I applied to college, it almost certainly would have affected my choice for matriculation. The increasing pressure to apply Early Decision, and thus, perhaps, accept an untenable financial aid package, renders the situation especially acute for low-income students.

The bottom line is that if Williams, with its more-than-ample endowment and deeply loyal army of alumni, does not choose to adopt a similar policy, as the institutions around it do, it will lose many of the students who could benefit most from this education. The institution would lose a great deal as well, in terms of students’ talent and socioeconomic diversity. Do we want Williams to regain a reputation as a bastion of homogeneity and social privilege? I hope not.

We can find the funds to match Princeton’s generous move forward.

Director of Financial Aid Philip Wick estimated the cost at about a million dollars… a lot of money, but not a sum outside the normal realm of the college’s operating budget.

Williams finds the funds for renovating squash courts, not to mention the Science Quad, installing slate floors and mood lighting in Mission Park, fireworks displays for Winter Carnival, and free laundry and dry cleaning during the height of the lice epidemic.

If we could deal with that last grave emergency, we can meet this challenge.

I believe that our number-one priority at Williams College should be the students. And I believe that, at its most fundamental level, means making sure that any admitted student with the capacity and the desire will be able to come here.

Less than half of Williams students receive financial aid, despite the fact that only those with incomes over $100,000 can afford to go to college without any form of aid.

In terms of who comes here, this school is still incredibly skewed toward the wealthy. I’d like to see Williams look a little more like America when it comes to socioeconomic background— income diversity goes hand in hand with diversity of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.

This issue is vital to the future composition of the Williams College community. If you feel strongly about this, I recommend emailing or calling the deans, Hank Payne, or Phil Wick, who are in charge of Williams Financial Aid, to let them know. Also feel free to contact me, Tess Gadwa, with further questions.

If enough students are vocal about this issue, the administration will have to respond.

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