News Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging

How OLD is WashU? Friedman Center releases report on WashU student body age distribution vs. U.S. population

University College students on campus in the evening
Photo: James Byard, WUSTL

Today, people are living longer than ever before. As life expectancy has increased, so has the time people remain in the workforce. Whether they continue in a familiar line of work, or pursue a mid-or late-life career change, longer working lives require on-going learning. Our economic, social, and physical well-being is enhanced by lifelong access to education.

A new analysis by the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging at the Institute for Public Health shows that even though we’re living longer than ever before, “this demographic shift is not reflected in the student body at WashU.”

Read the report.

What is considered “old” at Washington University? Given the age distribution of students, individuals aged 30+  can be considered “older” or “non-traditional” students.

Nationwide, according to the National Center for Aging Statistics, 87% of U.S. students who are full-time, undergraduates and attend a four-year, non-profit university are under the age of 25. The percentage of Washington University full-time, undergraduate students aged 25 or under is 100%.

Read the article “Making the Case for Age-Diverse Universities” in the Gerontologist by Friedman Center Director, Nancy Morrow Howell.

As expected, WashU graduate students make up a more age-diverse population with age make-up varying by school:

  • Although the age of graduate students varies across schools, the majority of graduate students enrolled are younger than 30.
  • University College has the largest number of graduate students over the age of 40 (39%), with another 27% between the ages of 31 and 40 years.
  • The schools with the largest percentage of graduate students over the age of 35 are: Olin School of Business (26%) and the School of Law (21%).
  • Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts host the largest number of graduate students under age 30 (89%) in their Master of Architecture program while Olin School of Business enrolls the fewest number of younger students (55%).

Overall the analysis shows that demographic shifts within the U.S. population are not reflected in the WashU student body. Within schools, age diversity typically corresponds to type of degree and curriculum formats.

In 2018, the Friedman Center helped Washington University become a member of the Age-Friendly University Global Network, and WashU remains committed to expanding programs and policies to engage people in all life stages. The Friedman Center then established the “WashU for Life Initiative” designed to implement strategies to increase age-diversity on campus and to engage students of all ages. That implementation and cross-disciplinary engagement continues.

Part of the Institute for Public Health at Washington University in St. Louis, the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging works toward a global society where all older adults have maximum opportunity for health, security and engagement.

The “How Old is WashU” Report was compiled by Nancy L. Morrow-Howell, PhD, Natalie Galucia, MSW, and Emma Swinford, MSW, MPH