Administrators address socioeconomic diversity at SU’s annual tuition forum

Aiden Blinn | Staff Reporter

Student Union hosted its annual Tuition Forum, which gives students an opportunity to learn about Washington University’s use of tuition money and financial aid efforts, Nov. 27.

The forum featured presentations from Amy Kweskin, chief financial officer and vice chancellor for finance, and Michael Runiewicz, director of Student Financial Services. After the presentations, Chancellor Mark Wrighton, Provost Holden Thorp and Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Rob Wild joined the two presenters for a Q&A with the audience.

Wrighton and the other administrators discussed the school’s recent focus on admitting lower-income students and bolstering financial aid.

“We are striving to enhance quality and diversity in all its dimensions, including socioeconomic diversity,” Wrighton said during the presentation. “And many know that we’ve made a major commitment to strengthen socioeconomic diversity. And that represents a major cost to us, but we are making some really good progress––[with] more to be done.”

Wrighton emphasized that the current fundraising campaign has been a significant factor in the University’s improvement of financial aid.

“One thing that I wanted to say is that we are working really hard in this era to attract more support for financial aid,” Wrighton said. “This has been one of the major, most significant priorities in our current fundraising campaign.”

During a presentation on the allocation of tuition and financial aid, Kweskin revealed that the price of tuition for students receiving financial aid has decreased in recent years.

“The price for students has actually gone down when you think about need-based students—and we’re able to do this because of a lot of the fundraising efforts that have gone on and the fact that we have instituted the no-loan programs,” Kweskin said.

During the Q&A portion of the forum, several students brought up the University’s need-conscious admissions process, which differs from the need-blind processes of many similarly ranked institutions.

In response, Thorp said that Washington University must be mindful of an applicant’s ability to pay the full or reduced cost of attendance in the admissions process.

“We’ve made a conscious decision that we’re going to only admit somebody if we can give them a financial aid package that’s going to allow them to be successful,” Thorp said.

Wrighton added that a student’s financial status is just one of many considerations during the application process.

“I’d say ability to pay figures into the process at the margins,” Wrighton said.

SU Vice President of Finance and senior Iliana Ragnone, who led the event and the panel discussion, applauded the University’s engagement with students during the forum.

“It’s really awesome how we are a part of a school whose administration is willing to come and hear concerns and answer questions from students, and I was so pleased by the amount of students who attended and also by the amount of questions,” Ragnone said.

Ragnone believes that transparency from the University is important in establishing a line of communication between students and administrators.

“Students want to know how the budget breaks down and what that’s like. So, I think that a forum like this is a really great mode for dialogue to come to a mutual understanding about what the money is used for and how it shows up on campus and impacts individual student experiences,” she said.

On the other hand, SU Senator and freshman Mia Hamernik found that the panel discussion was less open than she would have liked.

“It felt like they were more politicians than people, which is a bit disconcerting because if these are the people that are supposed to be taking care of you, you don’t want a politicized answer,” Hamernik said.

Hamernik stressed that an uninhibited dialogue is essential in communicating with the Washington University community.

“You don’t need to have a mask on if you’re going to speak to students. We want to know what’s going on. That’s why we’re showing up to these meetings,” Hamernik said.

According to Ragnone, the PowerPoint presentations used during the forum to present tuition statistics will be available in SU’s weekly all-school email, “SUp This Week.”

“If students who weren’t able to attend the forum but wanted to—or who want more information [and] didn’t get to see those presentations—[Sup This Week] will be a way for students to have access to that information,” Ragnone said.