A message from Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton

Throughout my nearly 19-year tenure as chancellor, Washington University’s priority has been to provide an educational experience that is among the very best in the nation and that is accessible and affordable. We want aspiring and qualified students — regardless of background — to come to Washington University in St. Louis, to feel welcome, and to succeed.

Our approach to accessibility and affordability involves effort in three key areas:

  • Providing more financial assistance, particularly through scholarships and our no-loan policy;
  • Strengthening the pipeline of qualified students by enhancing K-12 education; and
  • Ensuring that every one of our students is on a strong track for success here and well into their careers.

Last August, I shared some thoughts on this topic and promised to keep you informed. Today, I share several important developments.

Providing financial assistance:

Already, about half of our undergraduate students receive some form of financial assistance. However, we know that more students could benefit from scholarships. Therefore, we have increased our goal of raising funds for scholarships through our Leading Together capital campaign. Initially set at $150 million, then raised to $330 million, we are now working to secure $400 million to better support undergraduate and graduate students with financial need.

The number of Pell Grant-eligible enrollees who attend Washington University is one indicator of socioeconomic diversity in our student body. As we undertake a broader affordability and accessibility effort, this is a metric we know we have to improve — and making progress over time is a high priority. To do so, Provost Holden Thorp and I are redirecting resources to recruit, retain and graduate more Pell-eligible enrollees beginning with the class entering in the fall of 2014.

Strengthening the pipeline of well-prepared, inspired and diverse students:

Washington University has a long history of working to strengthen a pipeline of qualified students, particularly from diverse backgrounds. We sponsor the KIPP charter school in the City of St. Louis, which has become a highly successful program, with a second KIPP school opening in the fall. Based on this success, we have decided to sponsor another charter school program — the Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls, also in the City of St. Louis. Hawthorn will offer a hands-on, STEM-focused, college-prep curriculum, along with pre-college counseling and summer and extracurricular classes.

In addition, in the summer of 2014, we will launch a new Washington University pre-college program to help talented students from challenging circumstances prepare for success in college. We’ve also joined forces with two more college access programs — the National College Advising Corps and “Say Yes to Education.”

All of these efforts will help develop future generations of strong, inspired and highly motivated students.

Maintaining momentum:

As we continue to find innovative ways to make progress, we have a strong track record to build on. For example:

  • We have an undergraduate student body that ranks with the very best anywhere in the world. Our 94 percent graduation rate puts us toward the very top of any comparison.
  • Our no-loan program ensures that freshman students from families with an annual income of less than $75,000 receive full financial-aid packages that involve no loans. This allows these students to graduate in four years debt-free. Only a very small number of colleges and universities in the country have a similar offering.
  • Among the many scholarship opportunities at Washington University, our Enterprise Holdings, John B. Ervin, James E. McLeod and Annika Rodriguez Scholars programs help specifically to attract outstanding applicants who enhance the quality and diversity of our student body.

Thursday, I will have an opportunity to share Washington University’s broad approach to the issue of accessibility and affordability at a White House summit on higher education hosted by President Obama. Many of my peers from across the country will come together to discuss what we can do to address this major national challenge. It will be interesting to learn from others and to contribute to the national dialogue. My goal, through the continued and meaningful progress we are making, is for Washington University to be a leader in this important endeavor.

I thank all of you — faculty, staff and students — for all you do to make Washington University one of the world’s finest institutions of higher learning. I know, with your help and shared commitment, we will continue to make progress.