College tuition, financial aid both increased

Last week, the College announced an increase in annual tuition as well as changes to the financial aid program. Both changes will come into effect for the 1999-2000 school year.

In a letter to the College community, President of the College Harry C. Payne announced that the Board of Trustees had voted to increase the annual tuition to $31,520. This 3.75 percent increase over this year’s tuition is the second-lowest increase of the college’s tuition in twenty-six years. This minimal increase, Payne announced, “is part of an overall downward trend in this figure over the last decade.”

The other announced changes regard financial aid. Affecting all recipients of financial aid, the longstanding practice of increasing each student’s annual payment by an average of $250 will be changed, instead holding that level steady. Financial aid students were expected to contribute to their tuition from a combination of loans, summer-earnings, and part-time college occupations; each year, there was a $250 average increase in this payment. The difference will be made up with increased Williams scholarship.

Additionally, Payne announced that, beginning for the class of 2003, students with expected parental contributions of less than $2,500, the standard loan expectation will be reduced by $2,000 and the summer earning expectations by $650. For students with parental contributions between $2,500 and $3,500, the standard loan will be reduced by $1,000. Payne explained that parental contributions are based on “income, assets, family size, number of children in college, and any unusual circumstances.”

Director of Financial Aid Philip Wick explained, “everyone benefits from the fact that we will not increase self-help levels.” Those students who will benefit most, he explained, are from lower-income families.

Payne and Wick see these changes as extremely beneficial to the financial well-being of financial aid students, as those who receive the maximum benefit of these changes could graduate with $8,000 less debt and expected to contribute $2,600 less from summer earnings.

These changes are based on current graduation debt and contributions.

Recent changes at some selective colleges, including Princeton, Yale, Stanford, and, most recently, Dartmouth, prompted the Advisory Group on Admissions and Financial Aid to investigate a reform of the Williams financial aid program. The group designs the system changes which are then approved by the trustees.

The Williams scholarship program currently awards $12 million per year in student grants. The new program claims to add another $600,000.

The Williams College Bulletin explains the goal of the financial aid program to be the “promotion of the greatest possible diversity in the social and economic background of the student population.”

These recent changes, Payne explained, demonstrates, “Williams remains firmly committed to basing our aid solely on demonstrated need, to admitting students without regard to their financial situation, and to meeting each student’s full need for four years.”

Wick added that the Financial Aid office and those involved with the reform of the system, are primarily “concerned about issues of equity.”

As the financial aid system has changed very little in the past decade, Wick does not foresee any other immediate changes. However, “It’s a rapidly-changing marketplace,” he mentioned, “and we’re trying to stay competitive.”

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