Staff editorial: New grant programs represent progress toward future goals
Washington University administrators recently announced two new grant programs to help eligible incoming students to the University. The programs include a $500 grant to help offset the cost of a computer and a $1,500 annual start-up grant to help students with fees associated with being a Wash. U. student, such as flights, winter coats, textbooks and other needs. Recipients of these grants will be determined during the admissions process, and the first packages will be issued this year with the incoming class of first-year students. Pell Grant-eligible students will automatically be covered by the program.
The Student Life Editorial Board sees these efforts as a step in the right direction towards a more socioeconomically-diverse student body and ensuring that students have the resources and support they need to thrive at Wash. U. These grant programs address students’ very real concerns, and the flexibility of the start-up grant allows recipients to apply those funds to their own individual needs.
However, because the grants will be of such tangible benefit to students, we implore the University to consider instituting a program that provides assistance to students beyond their first year of college (it is our understanding that the grants are a one-time allocation).
These grants also are part of a larger goal of making Wash. U. more welcoming to less-privileged students, which has led to other recent changes such as the introduction of application fee waivers, self-reported standardized test scores and a lowered Bear Bucks deposit threshold. However, many of our peer institutions already have similar programs to the recently announced grants; and while this additional aid will be attractive to students that are choosing between universities and their respective aid packages during admissions season, we as a University can do more than just play catch-up.
If the University truly wants to prioritize supporting students from low-income backgrounds, the most important step forward is instituting a need-blind admissions policy. Chancellor Mark Wrighton recently called need-blind admissions “an ideal that we can work towards” in an October interview with Student Life and cautioned that the shift would be a financial challenge for the University. Despite the move’s expected challenges, we feel that pivoting to need-blind admissions is a necessary change to encourage socioeconomic diversity within the student body at Wash. U., and to emphasize the University’s status as a non-profit educational institution. The new grant programs and other smaller changes are a good start, but they ultimately cannot stand in place of a need-blind admission system.