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Williams abandons no-loan rule

Williams College, one of the most selective liberal arts schools in the nation, will retreat from its rule, adopted just two years ago, of meeting full student need with grant aid alone.

In a letter dated Sunday, Interim President Bill Wagner writes that it "seems prudent to reintroduce modest loans" as part of the aid packages of some students.

Williams is one of a small number of prestigious colleges with endowments large enough to meet the full financial need of admitted students through grant aid. "Full need" policies swept the upper reaches of higher education in recent years. A 2008 list compiled by U.S. News & World Report names several dozen such schools. The caveat: definitions of "full need" vary, and some schools apparently expect students to bridge the need gap through work or other means.

Williams adopted its full need policy in 2008-09, toward the end of a decade in which the school's financial aid budget had tripled (to $44 million currently) and its endowment had grown at a staggering rate.

The school's endowment shrank 22 percent in fiscal year 2009 to $1.4 billion, according to the latest survey by the National Association of College and University Budget Officers and Commonfund.

(For more on that study, read this and scroll through recent items on this blog.)

The policy shift will not affect current Williams students, Wagner said, but will be first applied to the class entering in fall 2011.

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By Daniel de Vise  |  February 1, 2010; 9:03 AM ET
Categories:  Access , Admissions , Aid , Finance , Liberal Arts , Rankings  | Tags: NACUBO, Williams College, endowments, full need, student aid  
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