On Wednesday, April 13th, Williams College announced that it will be the first school in the country to eliminate loans and all required campus and summer jobs as part of financial aid packages offered to students. The financial aid program will go into effect this coming fall for both current and new students and will be entirely composed of grants. As explained in an official announcement from Williams College, “the [eliminated] components will be replaced with equivalent grant funds, dollar for dollar.” The aim of the changes is to simplify the financial aid process for families. Tuition for the 2022-2023 school year at Williams College costs $61,450. Additional costs for room, board, activities & residential house fees cost $15,850 combined.
The announcement details that “middle-income families will receive approximately $35,000 in additional grant aid over four years, while the college’s lowest-income families, whose aid packages already excluded loans, will receive almost $16,000 in additional grants.” As noted in a letter from Williams’ President, Maud Mandel, the move will “benefit 1,100 current students, or roughly 53 percent of our undergraduate student body.” This will cost the school $6.75M per year, expanding the school’s financial aid budget to $77.5M year. Mandel explains that this is “one of the most generous [budgets] per capita in the nation.” Michael Nietzel of Forbes points out that Williams has a history of promoting affordable education. He cites the college’s decision in the 1960s to become one of the first to adopt a need-blind admission policy and cover students’ full demonstrated financial need.
This shift away from loans and to grants in financial aid packages comes at a time when tuition at higher education institutions is steadily increasing. Stanford University, for example, is increasing its 2022-2023 tuition by 4%. Yale University is increasing its term bill, which includes tuition, room and board, by 3.8%. The College Board has a Trends in Higher Education Series in which it releases data on tuition trends. In the Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2021, the research team summarizes data from the 30 years between 1991-1992 and 2021-2022. They found that “average published tuition and fees increased from $2,310 to $3,800 at public two-year, from $4,160 to $10,740 at public four-year, and from $19,360 to $38,070 at private nonprofit four-year institutions, after adjusting for inflation.” As college becomes increasingly expensive each year, it is important that more universities take the necessary steps to make college tuition more affordable for all students who wish to attend.