Washington University is as of October 2021 adopting a need-blind admissions policy. The university, which as of a 2017 report had the greatest percentage of students from the top 1% of any school in the country, has come a long way over the past five years: but until this year, they have not applied a need-blind admissions policy like many comparable nationally-ranked schools. At the time of the 2017 report, the St. Louis school admitted more students from the top income percentile than from the bottom 60%, and its students came from families with a median income of $272,000.
Two years later, in 2019, the school had already begun moving towards changing that. The percentage of its students eligible for Pell grants increased significantly, and the school created the Office of Student Success to support low-income students.
Now, after this year’s massive endowment growth — seeing an extraordinary 65% return — though, the school will be making an unprecedented $1 billion investment in financial aid for students, according to Chancellor Andrew D. Martin. The university’s new need-blind admissions policy will be effective immediately.
The university is calling this investment Gateway to Success. It includes $800 million in endowed funding to support need-blind undergraduate admissions, which means the university will not consider an applicant’s financial situation when making admissions decisions while still meeting 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for admitted undergraduates. An additional $200 million will be designated for financial aid for graduate and professional students in the Brown School, the School of Law and the School of Medicine, as well as in business, engineering, art and architecture, and other PhD programs.
“I could not be more pleased that we’re making good on our promise to make a Washington University education more accessible to all qualified students, regardless of their financial background,” Martin said. “Since I became chancellor nearly two years ago, becoming need-blind has been a top priority. Building on the momentum that began with our previous administration, we’re finally making it happen. This is a proud moment for us as an institution and I’m grateful to all who have contributed along the way, including generous donors who have provided scholarships and other financial support for our students.”
Martin also noted, however, that this new admissions policy will have to come with more support for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, in order to make sure that students don’t just get through the door, but have the support they need to stay there.
“We want to make WashU accessible to every qualified student,” said Ronné Patrick Turner, vice provost for admissions and financial aid. “We do this by removing barriers to admission and providing financial resources to make sure all students are able to attend, regardless of their ability to pay... At the same time, we know it will take an ongoing commitment for us to reach our goal of opening doors even wider for talented students to come to Wash U. We look forward to making this happen in the years ahead.”