College marks $46.2M for 2010-11 fin. aid

As part of the recently approved $205 million budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year, Williams College has earmarked an increase of approximately $2.5 million for financial aid for a total financial aid budget of $46.2 million. Although many departments will experience budget cuts in 2010-11, the $2.5 million is part of a $4 million increase was allocated to cover financial aid increases and a 2 percent employee salary increase (“College announces $205M budget,” April 21).

According to Provost Bill Lenhart, the College uses a predictive model to estimate financial aid spending for each upcoming academic year. The Office of the Provost and Treasurer looks at financial aid spending for the current rising classes and the estimated financial aid spending for the incoming first-years, and only presents a final financial aid budget to the Board of Trustees in September.

Currently, the financial aid office is working on reviewing the financial aid grants for returning students this week, and expects to mail out financial aid awards in the first week of May. Boyer added that the College will continue to cover whatever the financial aid needs of each student are, despite tough budgetary times.

The $2.5 million increase will add to a $4 million increase in the financial aid budget for the current academic year, which came to $43.7 million. Boyer said that about half of the increased spending in this 2009-10 budget was a natural growth due to the $2350 increase in tuition, room and board fees with the other half resulting from an additional 82 financial aid applicants last year.

For the students receiving financial aid whose parent contribution rates remain stable, the comprehensive fee increase automatically increases the scholarship money that the College awards. Boyer also stated that for families who did not previously receive financial aid, but suddenly have another child in college, the fee increase often slides them into the financial aid qualifying range.

However, Boyer said that a large majority of the financial aid spending increase has resulted from the downturn in the national economy. In January of this year, the financial aid office saw the number of families requesting midyear reviews double. “That was really the signal for us that the economy was hurting our families,” Boyer said. “2009 incomes were definitely lower for more of our families than in 2008.”

The accepted members of the Class of 2014 do not have to commit to the College until May 1, but the financial aid office has already begun to get a sense of the incoming first-years’ need levels. “Most of the statistics we measure the applicant pool by for the Class of 2014 are a mirror image of the Class of 2013,” Boyer said. In looking at the 2010 incomes for members of the Class of 2014, Boyer added that those incomes do not look lower than the 2009 incomes. “We got a pretty positive feeling that maybe the economy isn’t getting worse,” Boyer said.

Although the financial aid office will not have specific information on 2010-11 grants until the fall, the increase in grants has been spread across families in all financial brackets. “The economy is really a concern from top to bottom,” Boyer said.