Economic Access At Top US Universities

jhuThe most selective US universities remain out of reach for many students with limited means, and are seeking ways to make their campuses and programs accessible to talented students from every economic background.

Washington University in St. Louis (“Wash  U”) is making moves to improve its position as the least economically diverse top college in the US, according to “The Least Economically Diverse College, Seeking To Change,” by David Leonhard (New York Times, January 15, 2015). The university has rejected dozens of qualified low and middle income applicants seeking large financial aid packages in past years, rather than offering large financial aid packages.

Washington University recently announced that it is planning a significant increase in aid, with a plan to more than double the number of undergraduates receiving Pell grants (government grants which go to students in the lowest 40% of income) to nearly 13% by 2020. The new initiative will add $25 million to an existing $100 million financial aid budget, sourced from fund raising efforts.

Recent research showing that most academically qualified high school graduates from limited means do not attend the top 250 US universities and colleges, selecting less expensive and more local options—- and they then frequently do not graduate. At the same time, the income gap between college graduates and non-graduates is wider than ever.

The University of Chicago has also announced its intentions to expand aid for the most financially needy in its admission group. Students cite the additional, hidden costs on colleges campuses:  attendance at special parties and events, pledging fraternities and sororities and clubs, clothing and travel.

Sarah C. Reese                                                                                                                 Informed Educational Solutions

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