Staff Editorial: Need-blind is a cause for celebration; here’s what should come next

Reilly Brady

The last square anyone expected to blot out on their 2021 fall semester bingo board was the introduction of a need-blind admission process at Washington University. As of the Oct. 4 announcement (funded by a particularly shocking endowment growth of $5.7 billion), the University’s willingness to cast aside archaic admissions processes that factored in the financial situations of potential students is cause for celebration. While this change has been long-desired — almost an unachievable fantasy — this turn of long-halted gears on a highly supported admissions modification is commendable. It also shows that plenty of other “fantastical” financial changes are equally possible. 

Chancellor Andrew Martin acknowledged this point in his announcement speech; the Student Life Editorial Board commends both the change itself and Martin’s concession that this change won’t magically fix all of the socioeconomic problems on campus. Need-blind admissions are an important and necessary step, but the student financial situations after admission can often trend so negatively that they become blinding in their own right. For example, only students with family incomes of $75,000 or less are currently offered no-loan awards. While WashU has now pledged to both admit applicants without considering financial status and meet 100% of demonstrated financial need, setting up any chunk of those admitted students with loans rather than unrequited aid produces no net good, a fact peer institutions have long realized. Loan-free financial aid is a necessary step forward.

In the past, WashU has required a submission of an ACT or SAT score for student applicants. Due to the pandemic, the University temporarily became test-optional, a policy that has been extended into the upcoming admissions cycle. However, this must become a permanent change. The requirement of such testing results in an unfair admissions advantage for students with the socioeconomic ability to afford testing resources, pay to take the test more than once and spend their time studying rather than using after school hours on a part-time job. Standardized testing with a financial bias has no place in an equitable admissions process.

And of students in the middle — those not yet burdened with university-prompted loans following graduation nor facing the stress of submitting a need-aware application — we must push for an equitable financial experience. Undergraduates that are financially independent from parents and/or family are continuously held to a higher standard of fiscal responsibility than those who have their education (and lifestyle) funded generationally. Consider the case of a student who wishes to seek out post-pandemic therapy: While a student covered by their parents’ insurance can depend on said insurance to cover the costs of therapy services, Student Union’s Mental Health Fund (albeit a fantastic program) for financially disprivileged students relies on continual application processes that add additional labor to a socioeconomic subsection that is already more likely to be working a job atop classes.

Another helpful program in need of expansion is the Student Union Opportunity Fund, which at first provided eligible students with $35 of Bear Bucks and offered up to $250 in additional funding and now functions through an online application. While those $35 cards largely became laundry funds or a ticket to lunch on the Loop with friends who didn’t have to worry about expenses, the additional application-based funding offered to cover the cost of social events, tickets to shows and even individual club expenses. Programs like both of these Student Union funds are in the best interest of the University itself. While it is encouraging that our student governance is willing to continuously enact these sorts of funds, the University should take some weight off their shoulders and establish more mid-education financial aid like the Dains Student Success Fund through the University itself.

It’s an obvious but necessary statement that WashU must continue to strive for total socioeconomic liberty and equity for all students before and after the admissions process. The need-blind change is exciting and incredibly important, and the University must continue to make necessary financial changes in order to better support its students. Further changes will foster actual trust from socioeconomically disadvantaged students toward the University. Don’t let us begin another waiting game.

Staff editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of our editorial board members. The editorial board operates independently of our newsroom and includes members of the senior staff. 

Managing Editors: Jayla Butler, Isabella Neubauer

Senior Forum Editors: Reilly Brady, Jamila Dawkins

Senior Scene Editors: Olivia Poolos, Julia Robbins

Senior Sports Editor: Grady Nance

Senior Copy Editor: Grady Nance

Senior Multimedia Editor: Jaden Satenstein, HN Hoffmann
If you have any feedback on the Forum section as a whole, please leave your thoughts in this form.

Correction: We have updated this article as of Wednesday, Oct. 13 at 8:52 p.m. to include a reference to the Dains Student Success Fund and reflect that the Student Union Opportunity Fund is still active. Students can find information about the SU fund here.

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