Wash. U. to waive application fees for low-income families

| Senior News Editor

Washington University will waive the $75 application fee for undergraduate applicants whose family income is under $75,000 and will allow all applicants to self-report their standardized test scores in accordance with policies implemented by the University this fall.

Both changes are designed to make applying to the school more easily attainable for low-income students, according to Provost Holden Thorp.

“We were already giving out a lot of fee waivers. So, this is just a way to make sure that everybody knows that if they’re in a certain category, then they don’t have to pay their fee,” Thorp said. “As far as self-reporting the test scores are concerned, there’s a lot of studies out there in the admissions world that show that if you ask students to self-report their test scores, they almost always do it honestly because they know if you admit them, you’re going to look them up yourself. So, there’s really not a lot of risk in that. So, both of these are ways to try to knock down financial barriers that could cause people not to apply to Wash. U. We don’t want those barriers there.”

While the self-reporting of test scores will be verified after applicants are accepted, the waiving of application fees will be done on an honor system.

“We’re not verifying it at the time that they apply,” Vice Provost of Admissions and Financial Aid Ronne Turner said. “That may be naive, but it’s sort of an honor system. And at the back end of the process, as we’re evaluating this, we’ll be able to understand if a student has applied to financial aid, and we’ll be able to understand if there are students that are taking advantage of it. And if that’s the case—that’s when we may have to think about our policy.”

The changes represents continued effort to address issues of socioeconomic diversity on campus, which the University has been heavily criticized for lacking in the past.

“We hope to see even more applications from outstanding low-income students as a result of this,” Thorp said. “We want to send a signal that the barriers that exist for low-income students are things that we’re very dedicated to trying to remove.”

The new policies also reflect a more general trend among other universities.

“There are several of our peer institutions that have some version of this policy,” Turner said. “In some ways, we are ahead of our peers by being upfront. And in some ways, we are behind another set of peers. But it is something the industry has been thinking very carefully about on the common application and the coalition application.”

The fee waivers themselves are not new to the University, although previously they have been arranged on a more individual basis.

“We have always given fee waivers to students if they are student-initiated fee waivers,” Turner said. “So, in the past, either students have contacted us themselves, or they went through their counselor…But as Wash. U. and other institutions have been more focused on making college more accessible to low-income students, we’ve realized that we set up these processes that tend to make people prove over and over again that they are coming from a low-income family, and we want to avoid that.”

With these changes, Turner hopes to continue working toward making Washington University more accessible to more students.

“I’ve said this over and over again: If we’re really serious about making our institutions accessible, and Wash. U. is really serious about being accessible, then we need to really think creatively about ways to demonstrate that at every point,” she said.

Additional reporting by Noa Yadidi