UW to Cover Tuition for 5,000 Students Print
A revolutionary financial aid program called Husky Promise will allow about 5,000 in-state undergraduates to attend the University of Washington tuition-free next fall, President Mark A. Emmert, ’75, announced Oct. 11.

The program targets students from low and lower middle-income families and guarantees that they will not go into debt to pay for their tuition if they make sufficient progress and graduate within five years.

Husky Promise follows federal guidelines for Pell Grants. It covers students from families at or under 235 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four in Washington, that means an annual income of $46,500.

ImageThe University expects to support about 20 percent of the total number of undergraduates at its three campuses in Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma. All full-time undergraduates who qualify financially are eligible, whether they entered the University as freshmen or transfer students. The guarantee also covers any future tuition increases. Currently UW tuition and fees total $5,985 for resident undergraduates.

“This is a promise we are making to students for whom cost is often a deciding factor in whether they choose to pursue a college education,” says Emmert. “We believe the inability to pay should not prevent any Washington student who academically belongs here from earning a degree. I can’t think of a better investment.”

The money will come from a mix of public and private financial aid. Students from low and lower middle-income families currently receive Pell Grant and State Need Grants amounting to $44 million. The University currently funds about $25 million in scholarships from gifts or endowment funds and through grants from tuition revenues.

To cover the rest, the UW will embark on a new scholarship fund-raising program called Students First as part of the $2 billion Campaign UW: Creating Futures. By the sixth year of Husky Promise, officials estimate the additional annual cost for guaranteeing tuition will be $1.6 million to $2.8 million. Emmert calls it “a classic public-private partnership.”

Husky Promise differs from other financial aid “guarantee” programs in that it covers tuition and fees, but not room and board. For example, the University of North Carolina’s “Carolina Covenant” covers all costs for an undergraduate education, but has a much smaller scope. Just 9 percent of UNC’s undergraduates qualify, compared to the UW’s 20 percent under Husky Promise.

The UW already has a leading role among major public research universities in serving low-income students. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranks it third in the nation among similar institutions for serving the most Pell Grant recipients. Thomas G. Mortenson, a senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, told the Inside Higher Education Web site, “This is a university that has always had seriousness about serving low-income kids.”