WU establishes start-up grant program for incoming students

| Senior News Editor

Washington University is launching a new start-up grant program for eligible incoming students to help offset the initial cost of transitioning to college, the University announced Monday.


The first grant will consist of one $500 portion to cover or subsidize the cost of a computer. The second is worth $1,500 and is intended to cover essential items like winter clothes, textbooks or travel over both semesters.

“I hope this is going to help our students who are coming from less privileged backgrounds to be able to thrive in ways where the lack of resources has stood in the way,” Chancellor-elect Andrew Martin said.

Incoming freshmen students who receive a federal Pell Grant or whose households earn less than $75,000 in annual family income will be eligible. The grant program is expected to cost $1 million annually.

Currently, almost 15 percent of students of the class of 2022 are eligible for Pell Grants. Chancellor Mark Wrighton has said that the University hopes to have 13 percent of the undergraduate student body be Pell-eligible by 2020. Vice Provost for Admissions Ronne Patrick Turner says these grants will work to defray those start-up costs like travel and books that may influence a student’s college decision.

“That transition from high school to college I think is stressful for every single student that makes that transition. But I think it’s even more stressful if you are coming from a family or background that doesn’t have the resources,” Turner said. “And so we really hope that those students will be relieved a little bit of some of that anxiety and stress and feel really welcomed and supported. At Wash. U. we always talk about the Wash. U. community and how caring it is, and I think this is a great example.”

While the University has emergent funds available for students once they get to campus, this is the first program of its kind for incoming students. According to Assistant Provost for Student Success Anthony Tillman, these grants will be a “game changer” for eligible students.

“I think it’s going to really help parents and students and families with the planning process and give them a sense of confidence that when they do get here in August to start their classes, they will not be falling behind because they can’t afford their books,” Tillman said. “And for me as an educator [and] as a member of this institution, that’s awesome being able to have that sense of confidence that knowing that that component of parity or equity…we’re moving in [the] direction to take care of that and eradicate it so that there is no student that will not have the opportunity to start in the same space…in terms of the materials and textbooks that they need.”

The University is need-aware during the admissions process, meaning the admissions committee is aware of an applicant’s financial status while being considered for admission. In addition to the new grants, the University will eliminate the summer earnings expectations for those students who qualify for the grants. Previously, the expectation that students earn $1,550 was factored into financial aid.

“Students who are from under-resourced families spend a lot of time working and using their earnings to support their family, and they don’t have the opportunity to save,” Turner said. “And so this is something else that will alleviate students’ frustration or concern or worry or anxiety about coming to college.”

“I imagine that for many parents, [the grants are] also going to be a source of relief to some degree and the source of gratitude to some degree,” Tillman said.

Martin says that he hopes the grants will work to combat assumptions that are made about students’ socioeconomic backgrounds. He says that while students will have to work to change the culture on campus, this program was something the administration could do to ensure all students have the resources they need to be successful on campus.

“I think we need to get to a place where the way in which we interact with one another—and that’s academically but that’s also socially—isn’t predicated on having a great personal wealth,” Martin said. “That’s something that students are going to have to lead. I mean administration can talk about it, but at the end of the day, students are really going to have to do the work. At the same time, particularly to provide resources so that all of our entering students can have good up-to-date technology, that they have an account that they can draw on [for] whatever they need at whenever they need it to support their academic program—I think that’s going to be helpful to help ensure that they have great success.”

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