W&J Expands Commitment to Low-Income Students; Announcement Part of President's Participation in White House Summit

WASHINGTON, Pa. (January 16, 2014)—Dr. Tori Haring-Smith, President of Washington & Jefferson College (W&J), is in Washington, D.C., today, one of a select group of college presidents to participate in a summit at the White House dedicated to launching a plan of action for increasing college access for low-income and disadvantaged students. To this end, the White House plan of action includes commitments from participating institutions.

As part of its continued commitment to expanding college access, W&J announces the following new initiatives:  

W&J commits to meeting full demonstrated financial need for all students from its seven surrounding counties (Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland) who are eligible for PHEA grants (a low income education assistance program in Pennsylvania) and who have a GPA of 3.4 or higher. The Good Neighbor program will assist more than 100 students and will increase W&J’s Pell-eligible student population by more than 30%.

W&J has created a number of fully endowed Millennial Scholarships that underwrite all costs for high ability, low-income students. These students will pay nothing for their tuition, room and board, or ancillary expenses.  This support ensures that students can afford college and that they can focus on their studies rather than needing to work for pay. Two scholarships have been awarded and written commitments for an additional 15 scholarships have been completed.

Beginning in 2014-15, all first-year students will receive advising from faculty and a dedicated, professional advisor, supported by a new two-part Orientation program. August Orientation will focus on strategies to succeed in the first year, and a January Orientation will focus on planning the next three years of the college career in order to ensure academic success and appropriate preparation for the job market or graduate school.  The January program also will include resume preparation and interviewing skills, study abroad opportunities, and financial literacy.

Dr. Haring-Smith has long been a proponent of reform of the financial-aid process and supports a move toward greater need-based financial aid.      

Of attending the summit, Dr. Haring-Smith said: "I am honored to have the opportunity to participate in this higher education summit on supporting access and success for low-income students. Washington & Jefferson College has a long history of providing high quality education to those who might not otherwise have been able to afford it. I look forward to working with President Obama and my fellow presidents to expand the reach of financial aid so that we can ensure academic success and appropriate preparation for the job market or graduate school for all students who are interested in pursuing higher education."

Washington & Jefferson College’s newly announced programs are in addition to existing financial aid packages (generally consisting of scholarships, grants, loans, work study funds) and other efforts at expanding access to low-income families such as the award winning Magellan program, which provides funding for students of any income to study abroad, undertake research or complete an internship program.

Currently, more than 21 percent of W&J students are Pell-eligible.  Ninety-three percent (93%) of W&J’s Pell-eligible students who graduate from W&J complete their degrees in four years. Perhaps even more importantly, although research shows that low-income students rarely study abroad, more than 33 percent of our Pell-eligible students have been awarded Magellan scholarships, which fully fund independent travel to compete a challenging research project abroad.

Roughly one third of W&J’s students are the first in their families to attend college, and W&J is  the only Pennsylvania institution in the U.S. News Top 100 liberal arts colleges with more than 20 percent Pell-eligible students. Although other colleges in Pennsylvania have larger endowments, W&J still provides more than $21 million in financial aid each year.

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