In the past few years, Washington University has come under fire for its financial inaccessibility to low income students. Out of all higher education institutions with a 4 year graduation rate above 75%, WashU ranks last in % of Pell grant eligible students. This low number is a product of many factors, but it should be noted that WashU is a Need-Aware university. Though "Need-Aware" may sound benevolent, it means WashU is one of a handful of universities that considers applicants needed aid in their admissions decisions. Yearly, over 100 applicants are denied due to their low-income backgrounds.
In January 2015, university officials announced a plan to increase Pell-eligible students to 13% of the student body by 2020. This initiative is good, but it is only the start. 13% moves WashU from "the least" to "one of the least" socioeconomically diverse universities. The plan also fails to address the difficulties low-income students face once they attend WashU.
Currently, the university is expanding housing to accommodate larger incoming classes. These renovations include demolishing low cost housing while erecting luxury dorms. Last summer, Rublemann hall was demolished, where a triple cost $6,964 for the 2014-15 year. The Lofts saw their first year of student housing in 2014-15 at $12,566 for a 2 or 3 bedroom apartment. Student financial aid does not fully cover this high end housing, even though students may be placed there solely due to poor housing lottery numbers.
After making it through acceptance and the housing lottery, low income students still face the cost of text books, art supplies, unpaid internships, study abroad, and a social climate where students pay little attention to money spent on a night out. The TRiO program exists to help low income students with these expenses, but underfunding means TRiO can only reach 200 of its target 800 students.
Certain WashU administrators are sympathetic to this cause, but the university has little incentive to change without an active student body. If you are interested in getting involved contact firstname.lastname@example.org.