Beginning in fall 2020, lower-income full-time students from Missouri and Southern Illinois accepted for admission at Washington University in St. Louis will receive a free undergraduate education. The offer also will be extended to undergraduate students already enrolled at the university who would qualify.
Chancellor Andrew D. Martin announced this as “the WashU Pledge” during his inauguration on the Danforth Campus on Thursday, October 3.
“We are Washington University ‘in St. Louis,’” Martin said during his inaugural address. “That means we have a unique responsibility to provide opportunity for students in our extended region — to the four corners of Missouri and our neighbors in the southern portion of Illinois. By doing so, we’re attracting our very best and brightest and keeping them right here, close to home.”
The offer applies to full-time first-year undergraduate students who are Pell Grant-eligible or from families with $75,000 in annual total gross income or less and who reside in the designated area. It covers the full cost of a Washington University education, including tuition, room, board and fees.
The university has made substantial progress in attracting and enrolling Pell-eligible students, growing the number from 6 percent in 2013 to 15 percent in 2019. The university also has introduced a number of resources and programs to support these students, such as a fund that covers the cost of travel to interviews, academic fees, and medical and living expenses incurred during an unpaid internship, and a cohort program that provides community and support to Pell-eligible and first-generation students through academic and peer mentors.
Earlier this year, Washington University launched start-up and technology grant programs for students from families with annual incomes of $75,000 or less. The grants cover the cost of computers, books and other college necessities such as winter clothing and housing supplies.
During the recently completed capital campaign, Washington University raised $591 million for student scholarships and fellowships, substantially increasing resources for student financial aid.
Martin said the new pledge was crafted in the hope that these students “stay in the region to work, start their own businesses, conduct important research or practice their craft. This will boost the St. Louis regional economy and deepen our local talent pool.”
With a new emphasis on retaining its graduates in the region, Martin said he is “calling us to be Washington University for St. Louis. I see it as our ‘WashU Compact’ — a commitment between us and the greater St. Louis region as we look to strengthen our community partnerships and impact ‘In STL and For STL.’”
He noted that the university is the region’s third-largest employer. It also is the academic and research partner of BJC HealthCare, the region’s largest employer.
“I want to eradicate any kind of perception that St. Louis is merely WashU’s side gig,” Martin said.
He stressed four goals of this WashU Compact with St. Louis: to confront the region’s most significant social issues, to open the university’s educational doors to more people living in St. Louis and beyond, to bolster its partnership with BJC on health access and disparity work, and to become a better employer.
The social issues he said the university must address include “some of the largest income disparities in the nation, health disparities that are unacceptable, high levels of crime, malnutrition, looming environmental concerns, and limited educational opportunities for far too many children.”