New financial aid could allow metro-east students to attend Washington University for free

Metro-east students will soon have a chance to study at Washington University in St. Louis for free through a new financial aid initiative, the chancellor announced Thursday at his inauguration.

New Chancellor Andrew D. Martin said the “WashU Pledge” could cover tuition, fees, room and board for incoming, full-time undergraduate students from Southern Illinois, including St. Clair and Madison counties, starting next fall. Students in Missouri are also eligible.

Scholarships covering full or partial tuition were already available for the prestigious Washington University School of Medicine. This initiative is expanding the offer to cover the cost of attending WashU’s academic programs for undergrads. (The aid won’t cover University College.)

Qualifications for aid

To qualify for the WashU Pledge, students need to be eligible for a federal Pell Grant or come from families with annual incomes of $75,000 or less.

A family income of $75,000 or less would also qualify incoming students for new Washington University grants to cover the costs of computers, textbooks and “other college necessities” such as winter clothing and housing supplies, according to the college.

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This map shows the counties in Missouri and Illinois where residents are eligible for the “WashU Pledge,” a new financial aid initiative for incoming, full-time students who meet income requirements. Washington University

Today, tuition alone at WashU costs $27,125 per semester — $54,250 for the full 2019-20 academic year — which is almost six times the cost of tuition at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Recent graduates from WashU’s class of 2018 had an average of $22,555 in student loan debt after graduation, according to a report from the nonprofit Institute for College Access & Success, which relied on voluntarily reported data. (Data on SIUE graduates’ debt wasn’t available in the report.)

The WashU Pledge could allow some students to graduate debt-free.

‘Equity and inclusion’

Chancellor Martin said the new initiative’s goal is to attract students from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

“We intentionally build bridges across differences as we aspire to become a place that is both diverse and unapologetically committed to equity and inclusion — because we know full-well that diversity on paper is one thing, and equity and inclusion are another,” he said.

In the class of 2023, who started school in fall 2019, for instance, 23% are students of color, 15% are eligible for a Pell Grant and 9% are first-generation college students. Martin said the WashU Pledge could help more students access the university’s programs, while at the same time helping the region.

Washington University Chancellor Andrew D. Martin Washington University

“We are making this ‘WashU Pledge’ first because it’s the right thing to do,” Martin said. “In addition, we are Washington University ‘in St. Louis.’ 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.”

Requirements for admission

According to WashU’s admissions website, most students who apply to the university have the following on their high school transcripts:

Four years of English and math

Three to four years of laboratory science and history or social science

At least two years of the same foreign language since freshman year

Honors, advanced placement and International Baccalaureate courses, if offered by their high schools

WashU states that it is looking for students who took a “challenging college-preparatory curriculum in high school complemented by extracurricular activities, community service and work experience.”

To apply, visit

The metro-east is home for investigative reporter Lexi Cortes. She was raised in Granite City, went to school in Edwardsville and now lives in Collinsville. Lexi has worked at the Belleville News-Democrat since 2014, winning multiple state awards for her investigative and community service reporting.
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