Aid given to record 50 percent of students

The Class of 2013 will have the largest percentage of students receiving financial aid in the history of the College. Approximately 50 percent of the class will receive monetary compensation next year, and the budget has allotted close to $10 million in aid for the incoming class. In addition, there will be an increase in student summer earnings contributions for first-year students and in-semester work-study earnings for all students, in order to bring these numbers more in line with those of peer institutions.

This year, 68 percent of the incoming class applied for aid, compared with 72 percent last year. However, for the five consecutive years before that, this percentage ranged from 61 to 65 percent. According to Paul Boyer, director of financial aid, last year’s spike may have been caused in part by the greater number of students admitted to the College.
Boyer said that he expects to go slightly over the budget of $10 million allotted to financial aid for the Class of 2013, but “that changes daily.” Additionally, Boyer said, “We have had just as many post-award comparisons as usual.” Post-award comparisons occur when a family brings it to the College’s attention that it has received a more appealing financial aid package from a different school. “We don’t match other schools’ packages, but we try to figure out how the other school came to its conclusion,” noted Boyer.

Approximately 600 to 700 families of returning students applied for aid, but Boyer said that fewer than 20 of those families were new applicants, despite the economic downturn. “The number of families applying for the first time is relatively low.” In addition, not many families asked for mid-year review of their financial aid packages, suggesting, according to Boyer, that “many families [at the College] were immune [to the economic crisis] or were not hit the hardest.”

Policy-wise, the only change that will take place regarding aid is a slight increase in expected summer earnings contributions for first-year students and in semester work-study earnings for all students. “Neither of these contribution levels has been increased in a number of years, despite multiple increases in the minimum wage over this period,” said Bill Lenhart, provost and treasurer of the College.

He continued, “As a point of comparison, Williams currently has the lowest summer earnings expectation for first-year students of any of our 30 COFHE (Consortium on Financing Higher Education) peer schools; with respect to semester earnings, the Williams average wage for all students is above the median for the 30 other COFHE schools and the earning expectation and average number of hours worked is the lowest. The changes will bring our earnings expectations a bit more in line with those of our peers.”

Two separate increases in minimum wage, one federal and one in the state of Massachusetts, have occurred within the past 10 years, but the College did not adjust its earning expectations in relation to these increases. For the coming year, term-time earnings expectations have increased by $250 to $400, depending on class year.