No More Poor Foreigners

Oh Williams. It is just two weeks after the exclusive Massachusetts school decided that it would discontinue its generous grants-only financial aid policy. Now Williams College has decided to do away with need-blind admissions for foreign students. According to a Tuesday letter to the Williams community from Interim President Bill Wagner:

The process of setting the College’s price is complicated and at odds with how the world generally works. Since we live with this system every day, we tend to forget that outside of Williams and a small number of similar colleges, there may be no business or organization that charges for its goods or services only what an individual can afford to pay. That is amazing.

But as a result, the cost of international aid in the last decade rose by more than 200%….In the College’s changed financial situation, that rate of growth is unsustainable.

And so Williams College will now look at international students differently. According to the letter:

The Admission Office will know which applicants have applied for aid…. The office will then look at the international pool as a whole and aim to build an entering cohort that is not only academically strong but that is geographically and economically diverse and that in terms of aid approximates a rough dollar target that will begin where it is now and grow over the years at a rate slower than it has been. This new system should result in entering cohorts of international students that roughly resemble the one that we are blessed with now and at a rate of cost increase that is sustainable.

What this actually means is that: 1) Williams admissions offices will now take note of which international students applied for financial aid. 2) Williams will be less likely to admit those students. This is because Williams is undertaking this whole policy in order to save money. It will continue its need-blind policy for Americans, but foreign student are now less likely to be admitted if they can’t pay full tuition.

As Ephblog (a Web site covering Williams College, though unaffiliated with the school) noted wryly, perhaps the school will now consider reintroducing the 5 percent quota on Jews it had in place before World War II.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer