Photo of President Maud S. Mandel
By President Maud S. Mandel Photograph by Josephine Sittenfeld

Earlier this spring Williams became the first college in the country to move to an all-grant financial aid program. Starting in fall 2022, Williams will eliminate all loans as well as campus and summer work requirements from all of our financial aid awards and replace them with an equal amount in grants that students and their families won’t have to repay.

It has been wonderful to read the happy emails and social media posts along with positive media attention for Williams! One vivid example: I heard from an alum who received financial aid at Williams and is now the parent of a current aided student: “This news made me cry with gratitude. And I’m not a crier. … Thank you for all you have done and continue to do to level the playing field for all students.”

We want to ensure that our aid program is attentive to the financial needs of anyone committed to a Williams education. This includes middle- and low-income families who have long been and continue to be a major priority. The all-grant program also will apply to all students and families, regardless of country of origin or citizenship.

The shift is a major advance for educational opportunity. To a degree unmatched at any school in the country, Williams is looking beyond the costs of attendance to try and address the full cost of participation—participation in opportunities to think independently and take academic risks; to seek knowledge and have one’s ideas productively challenged; to grow and develop as a person; and to create and connect as members of a global community of learners. It’s a philosophy that we increasingly describe as “true affordability.”

Williams’ work toward true affordability is of a piece with our broader commitments to academic excellence, access and inclusion. There is great historical resonance in announcing the program during the 50th anniversary of Williams opening its doors to women students and at the same time as we prepare to break ground on an expanded Davis Center (formerly the Multicultural Center). This change to financial aid also comes at a time when we are welcoming a small but growing number of students who have served in the U.S. armed forces or transferred here from community colleges.

After we announced the all-grant initiative, you, our alumni and families, told me how proud you felt to know that your contributions have helped make the moment possible. I want to pause now to reflect on how far we’ve come together and imagine where we can go next. And to express my gratitude for your ongoing partnership to make Williams a wellspring of extraordinary—and truly affordable— educational opportunity.