Socioeconomic diversity: It’s time to move forward

| Staff Ed

In an interview with Student Life last week, speaker of the SU Senate sophomore Mamatha Challa asked about Wash. U.’s sharp price tag.

“It makes you wonder what it is that causes our tuition to be so high in the first place,” she said. “Yes, education is incredibly expensive, but what are we doing that makes it so expensive?”

It’s official: Wash. U. ain’t cheap. The University recently made the top 35 schools in CampusGrotto’s ranking of most expensive schools, thanks to a total yearly price tag of $51,918.

Wash. U. certainly isn’t unique in its high cost. Nearly 50 colleges and universities in the CampusGrotto ranking topped the $50,000 mark, and 43 more demand upwards of $40,000. Nationwide, average college tuition has increased at three times the rate of inflation for the last two decades. And strikingly, despite its high cost, only about 60 percent of Wash. U. students receive financial aid.

Statistics have revealed the magnitude of the problem; now we need Wash. U. administrators to step up with solutions. Much has been made of the apparent lack of socioeconomic diversity on campus, but we feel that little has been done.

True, the University began a financial aid and scholarship initiative “Opening Doors to the Future” just over one year ago, with the ultimate goal of raising $150 million from alumni and friends of the University. But if costs for undergraduates continue to rise at the approximately 4 percent rate of the last couple of years, this money will hardly make a dent over the long term. Wash. U. needs to be attracting a greater number of students from middle-class and low-income backgrounds; instead of doing so, the money will probably end up assisting prospective and current students from the upper middle class, who are nevertheless on the financial margin of being able to afford a Wash. U. education.

We encourage the University to continue this scholarship initiative to raise the target amount of fundraising, but further steps are needed to move forward on socioeconomic diversity among undergraduates. For one, Wash. U.’s ostentatious facilities (think of the plasma TVs at Bear’s Den and the DUC) are not only unnecessary, they may turn lower-income students off. Though we appreciate how hard our University works to make campus beautiful, we can’t help but presume that some visiting students are overwhelmed by the excessive display of wealth.

We also feel that admissions officers should visit high schools that are more socioeconomically diverse and reach out to students from a broader spectrum of financial backgrounds. The Office of Alumni and Development targets a specific network of schools, many of which are high-caliber “feeder” high schools. Reaching out to students from different backgrounds—who are less likely to have heard of Wash. U. in the first place—will enhance opportunities for these students.

Most importantly, we want more information about where money is being spent and how the University plans to move forward. As Challa indicates, students have little idea of how our tuition money is used. More transparency won’t necessarily reduce the burden our families bear, but it will help generate ideas among the student body about what is and isn’t needed. That way, we can finally move forward.

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