WU to adopt need-blind policy starting this admissions cycle

and | Senior News Editor and Managing Editor
A person in a white shirt walks in front of a glass building framed by green trees.

Sumers Welcome Center, which is home to the undergraduate admissions office, on a recent afternoon. (Photo by Nathan Springman | Student Life)

Washington University will adopt a need-blind admissions policy effective immediately, the University announced in the Record Monday morning. 

Through a $1 billion investment in financial aid, the University will become the final top-20 college in the country to adopt the policy, in which admissions officers make decisions without explicit awareness or consideration of applicants’ ability to afford college. 

This investment, titled Gateway to Success, follows last month’s announcement that the University’s endowment pool grew 65% during the last fiscal year, bringing its total value from $9.6 billion to $15.3 billion.

An endowed fund of $800 million will go directly towards need-blind undergraduate admissions, with an annual yield of around 4% of the fund spent in each annual admissions cycle, while $200 million will be used to support financial aid for graduate and professional students. 

Under the new policy, the University will not consider an applicant’s financial situation in admissions decisions and will still meet 100% of the demonstrated financial need of admitted undergraduates. In an interview with Student Life, Chancellor Andrew Martin said need-blind admissions would increase the student body’s socioeconomic diversity. 

“I don’t think it’s inconceivable that we could end up at 20%, 21% 22% Pell-eligible,” Martin said. “I think we’ll also see a pretty marked increase in students that are more [middle-income] as well.” The University has already significantly increased its percentage of Pell Grant-eligible students over the last decade, as 17% of this year’s freshmen, the class of 2025, are Pell Grant-eligible, compared to just 5% of fall 2012’s freshman class. 

[More from Student Life: A recent history of WashU’s relationship to need-blind admissions]

Undergraduate admissions will be need-blind for domestic applicants only, though the University also plans to invest in financial aid for international students, which Martin said is typical for many major Universities that have adopted need blind admissions. Only five colleges and universities in the United States — Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT and Amherst — offer need blind admissions to international students.

With need-blind admissions allowing more students of different backgrounds to attend Washington University, the next step is providing adequate support for students once they have arrived on campus, Martin said. According to Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Anna Gonzalez, additional funding aimed at bolstering existing programs like DENEB Stars and Chancellor’s Career Fellows will support this initiative.

“We need to make sure [that] we are ramping up the programs and services… that students need,” Gonzalez said. “How do you eat at a place like WashU? How do you get a sense of belonging at WashU when you are in such different socioeconomic status and [have different] experiences than your other peers?”

Students have long advocated for the University to increase its socioeconomic diversity and adopt need-blind admissions. In addition to the student advocacy around socioeconomic diversity at the University, Martin said faculty have been pushing for this change and they are ready to support students in the classroom.

“Our faculty are really prepared at this moment in time to step up to do the work, particularly in parts of our curriculum that I would call not as inclusive as they could be,” Martin said. “That work [of] taking students from wherever they are, including students who haven’t had the best opportunities and to get them through the curriculum is super important work.”

Martin called the implementation of need-blind admissions “a really important moment in our university’s history,” detailing how his predecessor, Chancellor Mark Wrighton, helped start the long journey towards finally becoming need-blind during his tenure.

“We’ve been working on this for five months, this particular project, once we knew what the endowment return was looking like in the middle of the spring,” Martin said. “This is one of those situations where the students, the faculty, the staff and even the chancellor, we’re all in agreement, and we got it over the finish line.”

How WashU got to need-blind admissions:

Wrighton: Need-blind ‘an ideal that we can work towards’

‘Our moral responsibility’: Martin on need-blind admissions

WU/FUSED disrupts tuition forum, pressures University to go need-blind

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