Campus survey results show economic isolation, socioeconomic status of undergraduate student body
According to the 2015 Socioeconomic Survey conducted by Student Life, 41 percent of undergraduate respondents receive need-based financial aid and 21 percent of respondents rely on need-based financial aid as their primary source of tuition. The most common primary source is parent/guardian (58 percent), followed by need-based aid (21 percent) and then merit aid from Washington University (12 percent).
The survey, which had a margin of error of about 4 percent, collected over 700 responses from undergraduates and focused on topics such as work-study jobs, financial aid packages, Greek life, and economic isolation.
Washington University, which has come under fire in the past for its poor socioeconomic diversity, is in a period of awareness initiatives, Pell Grant promises and student demands. Although representation is still fairly skewed, one thing is clear: Some students have a much easier time than others covering all of the expenses required of a Washington University student.
Out of 734 respondents, 15 percent of respondents reported that they think their average household income is greater than $500,000, while 13 percent reported that they think their average household income is between $25,000 and $75,000.
Of students who received aid packages, 81 percent said they rely on their package to cover college expenses. Many of those expenses, however, are not sufficiently covered; 88 percent reported that textbooks are not covered by their packages, while 82 percent said extracurricular fees aren’t covered. Seventy percent responded that dining isn’t covered by their package. Five percent of respondents said that their financial aid covers all of their expenses at college.
While about 40 percent of undergraduate respondents reported receiving need-based financial aid from the University, only 19 percent of those who do not receive aid responded “Yes” to the question “Do you think that you should be receiving financial aid?”
“I would definitely have expected those two statistics to be reversed,” sophomore Carson Platnick said. “It’s interesting that so many people feel that they shouldn’t be receiving it.”
When asked, “Have you ever felt isolated at Washington University because of your socioeconomic status?” 56 percent of students receiving aid responded with “Yes, with regard to off-campus social activities.” Furthermore, 57 percent reported feeling isolated in regard to summer activities, while 46 percent said yes in regards to determining housing. Thirty-nine percent said yes regarding study abroad, while 35 percent said yes regarding extracurricular activities.
“I think that’s why we need to change our going-out culture,” Platnick said. “It’s so expensive to be social if that means paying for a cab and then trying to get into a bar or a club.”
Of 761 respondents, 38 percent of students reported having a non-work study job during the school year. These students worked a mean of 10 hours per week, and earned a mean hourly wage of $12.08.
Questions regarding Greek Life and extracurricular activities pointed out that 63 percent do not think Greek life is accessible to students of lower economic status, with 54 percent of those in Greek life and 70 percent of those not in Greek life agreeing.
Another area of disparity was prior education: 34 percent of undergraduate respondents reported having attended a private high school. The Department of Education, meanwhile, reports that only 10 precent of high school students nationwide attend a private school.
Sophomore Robert Derber noted the significant difference this can make on a person’s life.
“Private schools are not exactly representative of the average student. It’s a real disservice to our public that money is so much a factor in the quality of your education,” he said.