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Why WashU is NOT amazing (for financial disadvantaged students)

albertlenalbertlen 2 replies2 postsRegistered User New Member
I am a rising senior at WashU. I come from a family living below the poverty line. When I get accepted into WashU, I was promised full financial assistance, in the form of grants, for tuition, housing, living expenses, etc... due to my family's EFC. Basically a full ride scholarship. I learned it was not a full ride half way into a semester of my freshman year. It turns out I reached the maximum WashU offers per person and this maximum scholarship is not enough to cover living expenses. Their advice? Get a job.

This brings forward another disadvantage low-income students have compared to students from wealthier families. By making the low-income students get a job (I work 3 jobs, averaging 50 hours/week, plus 18-21 credits per semester), they must take valuable time from studying, which puts them at a disadvantage academically. Not to mention that most low-income students are already going to struggle academically because they often come from mediocre public schools while the wealthy students come from prestigious private schools, so the wealthier students are more likely to be equip with the proper study tools and classroom etiquette that will allow them to succeed in school. When I have to work so many hours, I cannot join study groups, TA hours, professor office hours, or any of the other academic resources WashU promotes. I literally did not have access to the mental and academic resources because I have so many job responsibilities. Getting a job has repercussions I could have never imagined. At one point, I become suicidal and have been diagnosed with depression, which my psychiatrist has pinpointed as originating from the stress and anxiety of not being financial-secure so the effects of working my jobs in order to become financial-secure have led to extreme academic decline. WashU is literally making me choose between being academically strong or being financial-secure and I was not able to mentally deal with how WashU is doing this.

I don't want to sound like I am ungrateful for my college already giving me a lot of money, but I hate this deception and I hate to see other students be deceived and realize a semester in their freshman year that not everything is covered and they have to find money ASAP. Being worried about where the money is going to come from brings unwelcome stress that is added onto the normal college-level courses stress. I hate how my college is trying to change their public image at the expense of the low-income students. My college is literally taking in students they cannot/will not financially support and are basically dooming them into a life of stress and debt all so the college has admission stats that demonstrate a diverse socioeconomically diverse range of incoming students.

Being academically weaker due to the stress and time working various jobs just to have food in my mouth makes me more disadvantageous when it comes time to apply to graduate school, PhD programs, medical school, or any jobs as they will all ask for my GPA. These places are unlikely to take into account the fact that the low-income students works multiple jobs so the playing field is not level when comparing the GPA of a low-income student working 50 hours/week to a wealth student that does not have to worry about where the money is coming from and can focus solely on studies.The playing field is not level when you attend WashU, it has and will always be in the wealthy students favor, at no fault to them.

If I had known that administration/jobs/programs would not take into account the academic disadvantage I have working so many jobs, I would have attended my state college (which also offered me a full scholarship and is made up of a student body that has similar socioeconomic backgrounds as my own) so the academic playing field is more fair.

I do not want to discourage or frighten low-income students away from attending WashU, but please be more aware of what you are signing up to. You will struggle more academically and mentally than the many privileged students that will attend alongside you.
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Replies to: Why WashU is NOT amazing (for financial disadvantaged students)

  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 28775 replies56 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 23
    I don’t understand what happened here. Did you get a full Cost of Attendance financial aid award with a required student contibution? That is a typical package from schools that meet full need.
    Most of them require that the student contribute something towards the cost. There is a presumption that the student works the summer before going to college and brings some money, and continues to work during the school year, but not as many hours as you are saying you needed to work.

    Was your family EFC zero, or was there a required contribution? Did you turn down loans?

    I agree fully that it’s not fair that there are students who don’t have to work at all and have money to burn. That there are parents for whom college costs are pocket change. My kids worked 3 jobs in the summer as early as they could. We couldn’t have the summer vacations other families did because my kids were the ones doing the work for summer vacations and activity. That’s when they made their money, and then they worked about 10 hours or so during the school year.

    So I’m curious as to what your family need was supposed to be and what the expected contribution was from your parents and from you. Also, how did you run out of money? You couldn’t pay fro tuition or fees or room or you ran out of food money, book money?
    edited June 23
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  • albertlenalbertlen 2 replies2 postsRegistered User New Member
    My financial aid package did include a student contribution/work-study but the financial aid advisor said that the "expected student contribution" is not factored into the total award as it is a number automatically generated from FAFSA. She said I can decide to not to do the work-study and the aid package will be large enough to cover the costs of tuition, housing, living expenses (food, textbooks, transportation, living essentials, etc.). I made the mistake of not actually doing the exact calculations before freshman year and had not realized WashU does not give enough aid to cover tuition, housing, and living expenses so when I brought it up to my financial aid advisor, they said I literally reached the maximum they are allowed to give freshman.

    I am saying that WashU is promising everything for those who financially need everything, but not actually giving everything. Tuition and housing are automatically deducted from my financial aid award at the beginning of the semester, so I was left with very little (~$50) in my account to cover living expenses. I was in no way prepared to pay for transportation, dorm essentials, or school supplies on my own. FAFSA determined I have an EFC = $0, we had no savings to pay for the living expenses WashU claimed in their financial aid website that they would cover for families like mine.

    In the end, I had to work two minimum-wage jobs plus a work-study (that WashU originally claimed I did not need to work) to afford living at college.
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  • collegemom9collegemom9 783 replies29 postsRegistered User Member
    I’m not understanding this post either. When you were accepted you would have received your financial package for the year so your package could not have changed 1/2 way through your first semester.
    As far as sounding ungrateful, you kind of do. There’s more to the story than you’re telling here.
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  • albertlenalbertlen 2 replies2 postsRegistered User New Member
    If I had only looked more into the numbers, I would have definitely not attended. The stress and mental deterioration was not worth it. To not discourage WashU students, I know of a program the Chancellor-elect is putting out that students from families below a specific income threshold get a large stipend for a personal computer and/or textbooks. This is amazing for incoming students... but it also shows that WashU knows there financial aid office awards aid packages that are not sufficient. I only recently decided to post this because I saw the new additional-stipend program as proof that WashU knows the low-income students are not getting the aid they deserve/were promised and are trying to compensate for the newer classes.
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  • collegemom9collegemom9 783 replies29 postsRegistered User Member
    I’m not understanding how you not looking at the numbers close enough is somehow a shortcoming for WashU. Clearly you weren’t offered the full cost of attendance or there wouldn’t have been an issue.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 28775 replies56 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    It appears that you had a required student contribution. That you had a FAFSA EFC if zero is not relevant because Wash U uses PROFILE to come up with a required family and student contribution. You knew you had that student contribution from the Award letter, I’m sure. It was your responsibility to find work the summer before and earn that money so you did not have to work as many hours during the school year. You needed to look at your award and the direct billed expenses. Your award likely covered Tuition, fees, room, meal plan. You would have to pay for your discretionary expenses, books , supplies and yes, transportation.

    This is typical of awards. Students are expected to come up with some of the money themselves and the amount increases each year. This is not at all unusual. Did you have student Direct loans in your aid package ?
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  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 1950 replies26 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    There is a book titled "Paying the Price" about students in your same situation. It's discouraging, and there are really no good solutions forthcoming. You've got to be a pretty remarkable person to be able to manage the situation you are in. WUSTL is very lucky to have you, and if they would show you some support now, I'm sure you're the type who would make them proud later. I hope it works out for you.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 28775 replies56 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    It’s upsetting that students are not directly told that financial aid and some full rides are not true full rides. There usually is a student contribution, which should not have necessitated you doing full time work all year, but there is that amount you have to pay. Also often health insurance if you don’t have adequate coverage through family. The maximum amount allowed to be given is usually the COA amount that is the full borrowable amount with federal backing. However, there is almost always that student contribution.

    Most middle and even high income kids have to work some hours during the school year and during the summer. So, yes, you too were required to work. I blame Financial Aid for not sitting down and going over your package and expenses line by line, but you too, should have done the same. By senior year you should have figured it out.

    I know many kids in financial aid and getting nothing from their families or very little , and they are always looking for ways to save money, make money. I was one of those kids once upon a time.
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  • collegemom9collegemom9 783 replies29 postsRegistered User Member
    The offer may have been inadequate but it would have been spelled out clearly with the acceptance.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 28775 replies56 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Oh, I agree. 36 weeks of 50 hours a week is 1800 hours a year. At $5 an hour net, it comes to $9k a year. So that means, OP needs $9k in living expenses even with Tuition, fees, room and board?
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  • austinmshauriaustinmshauri 8742 replies321 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    @albertlen, Can you give us a breakdown of your financial aid package and the direct costs of the school (tuition plus room & board)? It sounds like those are covered, but flights to and from school, personal expenses, and maybe health insurance isn't. Is that right?
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33101 replies358 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 23
    I've never heard of a legit college like WUSTL not quoting numbers. They don't just say, "full financial assistance."

    You would have gotten a number and been able to compare it to the full cost of attendance, see the difference. And if you're a rising senior, you would have seen these numbers 4 times.

    If it's so unaffordable, you would have made choices to transfer.

    What's wrong with this picture?
    Doesn't make sense.
    edited June 23
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 28775 replies56 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    7 times. Each semester
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33101 replies358 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I meant 4 fin aid packages, one for each year. But yes, OP would have seen the bills each semester.
    So, is this fir real?

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  • anxious ladybuganxious ladybug 26 replies5 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Wow really? I was seriously considering applying but all of this makes me realize this school is not for me.
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  • goodjobgoodjob 73 replies1 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Wash U is an incredible school. However, if you are financially strapped why wouldn't you take your talents to a "lessor" school and get more bang for you buck. I am sure your state school would have been an incredible value and no stress.
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  • austinmshauriaustinmshauri 8742 replies321 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    OP is a low income student. Low income students on full rides can't just transfer. They're no longer eligible for freshman grants, so where would they go? Even if he went to a cc for his second year the chances of affording the last two years on a low income isn't great. The alternative is working full-time (or more) to pay for classes. A lot of us have done it.
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  • collegemom9collegemom9 783 replies29 postsRegistered User Member
    @austinmshauri I agree with you but it’s clear from OP’s post that he wasn’t given a “full ride”.
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  • collegemom9collegemom9 783 replies29 postsRegistered User Member
    @cptofthehouse 4 times. You don’t get a new FA package each semester only a new bill.
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