Comprehensive fee approaches $50K

President Schapiro announced the tuition for the 2009-10 academic year in a March 27 e-mail and letters home to the Classes of 2012, 2011 and 2010. The comprehensive fee, which includes tuition, room, board, activities and residential fees, will be set at $49,880. This figure represents an increase of 4.9 percent from the 2008-09 year.

Peer institutions are implementing comparable tuition increases for the upcoming year. Yale will raise its tuition 3.3 percent to total $48,500 in comprehensive fees, Stanford will raise its fee 3.5 percent to total $48,843, Harvard will increase 3.5 percent to total $48,868 and Princeton tuition will rise the least – 2.9 percent to total $47,020.

Because of the volatility of the current global economic climate, the College and the Board of Trustees deliberated to come up with the amount of increase.
“The figure results from a complex weighing of the impact of the general financial decline on parents and families who just miss eligibility for financial aid against the needs of the College to replace money taken from the endowment with tuition revenue,” President Schapiro said. This year’s increase is less than those of the past seven years – last year the fee was raised by 5.3 percent.

According to Schapiro, “all labor-intensive industries work such that as costs rise, prices inevitably follow,” necessitating the annual increases. Schapiro pointed out in that some colleges and universities, including Williams, “match price increases with financial aid increases for many families so that they are not asked to pay more than our aid formula suggests is fair.”

“We essentially give financial aid to the bottom 95 percent of American income distribution, although it depends on assets,” Schapiro said in an interview with the Record last October. This distribution signifies that the only people who will pay significantly more is that top 5 percent, for whom the economic crisis may not be as painful.
Schapiro underscored that the comprehensive fee for the 2009-10 academic year “remains well below the College’s expenditures per student and falls in the lower half of fees at the nation’s most highly selective private colleges and universities.” Furthermore, “our financial aid program will continue to be among the most generous in terms of both grant sizes and the range of families who qualify for them,” he said.

He also noted that the Office of Financial Aid’s commitment to meeting full demonstrated need of both new and returning students remains paramount, including “those whose family circumstances may have changed in the past year or who may qualify for the first time because of the fee increase.”

“In terms of the comprehensive fee that financial aid students pay, there is no effect,” said Jim Kolesar, director of Public Affairs. “That fee is only affected by the individual student’s financial situation. When tuition goes up each year, a small number of additional families then qualify for financial aid, but not any large amount.”

Additionally, President Schapiro stated that the College was looking at reducing spending with the goal of retaining and supporting programs that are essential to the Williams education.

While the tuition increase is substantial, it appears that Williams remains fairly consistent with its peer institutions with a financial aid system that will still work to counter the rising costs.

Additional reporting by Laura Corona, Jared Quinton and Hanna Saltzman, Record staff.