Financial aid to raise $90 M through capital campaign

With a budget shortfall and a slight increase in the number of students on aid, the College, as part of The Williams Campaign, hopes to raise $90 million for the Office of Financial Aid. This $90 million will serve as a restricted endowment for Financial Aid and thereby allocate an additional $4 million to their annual budget.

Last year alone, Financial Aid distributed approximately $16 million in scholarships; however, its budget could only afford $11 million of the $16 million and therefore was forced to borrow funds from the College’s general endowment in order to cover scholarship costs. The College hopes this $90 million will prevent such events from happening again.

Paul Boyer, director of Financial Aid, looks at this fundraising initiative in terms of “dollars and cents.” According to Boyer, this campaign does not mean an increase in students’ financial aid packages, but serves in the long run to support the College’s goal of providing for students in need of financial support.

The number of people on aid has remained relatively consistent from year to year. Presently, around 45 to 46 percent of students receive aid. Over the last five years, the percentage of students on financial aid has been between 38-45 percent. That is rather low in comparison to our peer institutions, such as Amherst, which has around 50 percent of its students on aid. Boyer says that the number of applicants on financial aid has stayed consistent because the admissions pool has not changed.

In the past five years, the College has seen a shift in income distribution of its applicants. Fewer people in the income range of $30-$60 thousand are applying to Williams, while more upper-middle class people, in the income range of $90-$120 thousand are applying. Boyer finds this “worrisome.”

The College, in conjunction with Financial Aid, has released a new pamphlet, which stresses the College’s “affordability” for all students. “Anyone who applies can come,” Boyer said. “Williams meets 100 percent of a student’s demonstrated need.”

On its home page, Financial Aid has a calculator, which will give prospective students an estimate of their aid package, including loans. “We are a little behind,” said Boyer when referring to the College’s efforts to attract prospective who are concerned about the cost of Williams.

Recently, a U.S. News and World Report listed Williams graduates as having some of the highest loan debt out of other college graduates. The average debt registered around $12-$13

“This year is by far the worst weather we have had.” thousand. Boyer said that the College within the past few years implemented a “lower loan scheme” which resulted in a drop in average loan packages for the typical student from $18 to $14 thousand. Boyer said that not every student leaves with $12-$13 thousand in loan debt; it depends on one’s family income. He did not consider it such a cost high considering the overall price and benefits of a Williams education. The College has no plan of instituting a loan-forgiveness upon graduation program like the one at Princeton University.

Comparatively speaking, the low number of students on aid as stated by Boyer has changed neither the pool nor yield of students for each incoming class. Boyer explained that the shift in income distribution was a rebound from the late 1990s. He emphasizes that this shift in income is not huge.

Boyer emphasized that financial aid is at the forefront of the College’s agenda. According to Boyer, one of the College’s dreams is to have a financial aid program fully funded by the endowment; however, in the interim period the College hopes to raise $90 million. Looking at the past success of other fundraising initiatives, Boyer is optimistic that the College will raise the money necessary to execute future policies and projects.

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