On April 4, President Falk announced a 4.2 percent increase in the College’s comprehensive fee for the 2011-12 academic year. This fee, including tuition, room, board, activities and residential house fees, will now total $54,560.
In an all-campus e-mail, Falk wrote that “like the economy in general, Williams continues to recover from the shock brought on by the global crisis,” and explained that although the College’s endowment is growing again, it will still take years to bring investments back to pre-crisis levels.
Falk indicated that the College has cut its spending through a variety of means, “including a reduction in personnel expenses achieved by dropping many positions that became open, either naturally or through an early retirement program.”
Spending will mainly focus on core academic activities.
According to Bill Lenhart, provost and treasurer, although an additional $2220 per about 2000 students should bring in over $4 million, the announced increase will only generate roughly between $2 million and $2.5 million in revenue. The College is committed to meeting the full demonstrated need of every student, with over 50 percent of its students receiving some level of financial aid. Therefore, the College will not receive additional money from those students unless their financial situations have changed significantly since last year.
In addition, students in study away programs do not pay the traditional comprehensive fee, but instead pay the charges of their respective programs plus a $1500 study away fee to the College. However, the College continues to provide financial aid for students in these programs, further reducing the revenue generated by student charges.
From 1998 to 2008, the College has seen around a 37 percent decline in the median net price of a College education for a family receiving financial aid, Lenhart said. Meanwhile, the percentage of families eligible for aid has risen substantially.
For the past five years, there has been a downward trajectory of percent increase in comprehensive fees. Since the 2006-07 academic year, the College’s comprehensive fee has seen increases of 5.8, 5.8, 5.3, 4.9 and 4.9 percent, respectively.
This new comprehensive fee is still well below the College’s expenditures per student and remains in the middle range of fees for highly selective colleges and universities.
Lenhart explained that since the student comprehensive fee charges income, even combined with other revenue sources and gifts for current use, it does not come close to covering the College’s actual cost per student.
Each year the school subsidizes the cost of running the College from its own assets, and this year that spending is expected to be about $78 million.
According to Lenhart, the question we should be asking is not “What do we cut to keep student charges down?” but rather “What is the most equitable way to share the cost of educating our students and how should that cost be shared by the students, their families and the College?”