WashU - Administrative Commitment Brings Cautious Optimism

Recently the administration at Washington University in St. Louis made a commitment to socioeconomic diversity at one of the nation's top schools. Washington University for Undergraduate Socioeconomic Diversity, or WU/FUSED, wrote the following response to the university's decision.

By Washington University for Undergraduate Socioeconomic Diversity

On Jan. 15, Washington University announced a plan to increase the number of Pell-eligible students it supports to 13 percent of the student body by 2020. This commitment, which partially fulfills the demands of our November petition, is long overdue, and WU/FUSED commends the administration’s efforts in this area.

We are particularly grateful for Provost Holden Thorp’s commitment to making socioeconomic diversity a priority at the highest levels of University leadership. We at WU/FUSED are excited that conversations about the lack of socioeconomic diversity at Washington University have led to meaningful commitments from the administration to devote resources to increasing the accessibility of a Wash. U. education.

It is important to emphasize, however, that this is the first step on the path to eliminating discriminatory admissions practices, and there remains significant work to be done. While increasing the number of Pell-eligible students as a percentage of the student body to 13 percent by 2020 represents a marked improvement upon the University’s current numbers, it still won’t put us at the median among peer institutions—roughly 15 percent today—especially if these institutions continue to expand their own need-based aid funds. We will continue to exert pressure on the administration to allocate as many resources as possible to further increasing funds devoted to need-based aid.

WU/FUSED is also committed to holding the University accountable for its pledge. We call on the administration for greater transparency and specifically would like to see the administration release a memo within the next six months outlining a timeline and setting benchmarks for increasing financial aid resources and admitting more Pell-eligible students.

As more Pell-eligible students are welcomed into the University, WU/FUSED plans to continue advocating for students from low-income backgrounds. We are convinced that the University’s commitment to lowering barriers in the admissions process must be matched by an effort to increase services aimed at helping students adjust to Washington University and meet extraneous expenses.

While some low-income and first-generation college students are supported through the TRiO program, hundreds of students from low-income backgrounds who meet the eligibility criteria for TRiO are not supported as a result of Washington University’s failure to supplement low levels of federal funding for the program. Unless the University steps up its support of low-income students at Washington University, the number of students who fall through the cracks will increase substantially as the University progresses toward its 2020 goal.

We at WU/FUSED look forward to working with Washington University to make our University more accessible and to provide greater support to low-income students. We hope to expand the dialogue between students and the administration on this pressing issue, and are convinced that constructive conversations are necessary for Wash. U. to live up to the ideals to which it aspires.

This article original appeared at http://www.studlife.com/forum/op-ed-submission/2015/02/05/administrative-commitment-brings-cautious-optimism-about-future-of-socioeconomic-diversity-at-university/

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