Aid requests rise 3 percent

The need for financial aid among Williams students rose this fall, due in part to the economic recession of the past year, although the increase was not as high as the Office of Financial Aid expected. However, according to Paul Boyer, director of financial aid, further hits to the endowment could lead to a reinstatement of loans as part of the aid packages of present and future students at the College.
Applications for financial assistance rose by 3 percent this year, which Boyer attributed to the rising numbers of families suffering from the various effects of the recession, ranging from job losses to cuts in overtime. The overall percentage of students on aid has increased from 49 percent to 52 percent. In addition, many students who were already receiving some aid now require more, Boyer said, largely due to reduction in family income.
While the number of applications for aid remain on the rise, the rate of increase is slowing. Between the 2007-08 and 2008-09 academic years, the number of applications rose by 10 percent, significantly more than this year’s rate of increase.
Boyer said that he foresees no change to the College’s financial aid policies “in the short term.” That is to say, the College will continue to meet 100 percent of the demonstrated need for 100 percent of students, and will continue to use the same methodology to calculate that need as it has been doing for years. Indeed, if the economic situation begins to turn around soon, Boyer believes that the financial aid program should emerge entirely intact.
However, as long as the economy remains unpredictable, the Office of Financial Aid is “waiting to see, day by day, what’s going to happen,” Boyer said. If the College’s financial situation takes a turn for the worse, reinstating loans into aid packages for both current and future financial aid students might be an option, Boyer said., adding that while aid is a spending priority, the administration may face some tough decisions in the face of a continually shrinking endowment, particularly when it comes to choosing between cuts in staff and cuts in financial aid. He said he expects that “before staff are let go, loans would show up in financial aid packages,” but remains hopeful that the College will be able to protect both.
A related development is the recent changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly referred to as the FAFSA, which is one of many forms that must be completed by all financial aid applicants. The main aim of these changes is to simplify the application process, making it easier for students to request federal aid by reducing unnecessary questioning and providing immediate estimates of eligibility for federal grants and loans.
Boyer expressed hope that the FAFSA would continue to evolve so that more College students would be eligible for more federal grant money. This is unlikely to increase the amount of aid students receive on an individual basis, as the College will reduce its own contribution if a student receives more from the government. However, any money saved in this way may enable the Office of Financial Aid to allocate more aid to other students, providing welcome relief amid current challenges.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *