On March 30, Interim President Bill Wagner announced a 4.9 percent increase in the comprehensive fee for the 2010-11 academic year. The fee, which includes tuition, room, board, activities and residential fees, will total $52,340.
Wagner cited “living in a challenging new financial world” in which Williams College must handle a reduced enowment and the country’s financial crisis as the central reason for the increase. Wagner noted that the College has already implemented some measures to improve its financial situation by reducing expenses, and reminded the community of the recent changes in the financial aid policy for international students and the early retirement plan for faculty and staff. He also underscored that despite the increase, the comprehensive fee remains in the middle range among comparable schools and far bellow the College’s actual spending per student.
Peer institutions have implemented similar increases for next year. Amherst and Wesleyan have both raised their comprehensive fees by 5 percent to total $51,522 and $53,676, respectively. Wellesley’s fee went up 4.2% to total $51,950, while Swarthmore’s was increased with 3.8% to total $51,500. Out of most comparable institutions, Princeton experienced the lowest increase: 3.3 percent to total $48,580.
Jim Kolesar, assistant to the president for public affairs, said that there was hardly any alternative to raising the comprehensive fee. “I don’t know that it’s possible to say what more would have had to be cut for the comprehensive fee to remain flat,” he said. “It would have had to be substantial, though.” Kolesar explained that each 0.1 percent increase in the comprehensive fee represents between $50,000 and $60,000 net income for the College. This means that the announced increase will contribute between $2.5 and $3 million to the College’s budget.
The announcement about the 2010-11 comprehensive fee was released immediately before President Adam Falk stepped into office. However, according to Kolesar, the College could not have made the announcement any later “because the financial aid award letters to newly admitted students, which contain the figure, are mailed near the end of March.”
Additionally, Wagner said that Williams will “remain focused on the quality of academic offerings and other educational experiences available to our students.” Moreover, he assured the community that “our financial aid program will remain among the most generous anywhere.” Wagner also said that the College’s spending on aid will likely increase approximately 5.3 percent during the next academic year.
“Williams is committed to meeting the full demonstrated need of all new and returning students, 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,” he said.