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Rice ranks fourth for "best value" in nation

By Hallie Jordan     11/19/09 6:00pm

In a repeat of last year's ranking, Rice came in fourth as a "best value" private school on both The Princeton Review and Kiplinger's Personal Finance rankings published earlier this month. The top 100 national schools were ranked. California Institute of Technology, Princeton University and Yale University precede Rice in the rankings.

Kiplinger's determines quality by the percentage of applicants offered admission, SAT scores, the university's student-faculty ratio and the percentage of freshmen who earn a bachelor's degree within four or five years.

The Princeton Review uses student surveys to come up with its results, Vice President for Enrollment Chris Muñoz said.

"Certainly, it is easy to conclude that our undergraduates at Rice are saying some extremely positive comments about their experience at Rice," Muñoz said.

To help students continue to afford Rice tuition, and to keep up with other schools' financial aid policies, Rice increased its no-loan threshold from $60,000 to $80,000 last semester, Muñoz said.

Furthermore, students who matriculated in 2009 and after will be offered loans not exceeding $10,000 over the course of four years, he said.

However, Vice President of Finance Kathy Collins said results for the new financial aid policies will probably not be reflected until this year's freshmen graduate.

Collins pointed out that Rice does well in rankings involving financial aid because the university is need-blind and has always had a relatively low cost compared to other schools.

As the number of students at Rice increases, Collins said she anticipates that there may be changes in financial aid.

"I think the big uncertainty for everybody is how the economy is affecting people and how it plays out in financial aid requirements," Collins said. "But Rice has had a practice of adjusting financial aid as family circumstances change."

Jones College junior Hilary Baker-Jennings said she felt the rankings reflected her experience at Rice.

"I have enjoyed my Rice experience so far, and feel that it has not been overly exorbitant in cost for my parents," Baker-Jennings said.

With the university's population on the rise, Muñoz said he does not anticipate a problem with any loss of academic quality. Rather, he said the growth is beneficial for Rice.

"I believe that with our growth we are becoming a better university," Muñoz said. "It is enabling us to have more students in a more critical-mass way. Look at the geographic diversity of our class this year. Look at the academic interests beyond academic discipline. The sheer size helps us to make a richer university experience, which I think is a big part of the perception of the quality of a Rice education."

The combination of the "best value" ranking and the number-one quality of life ranking, bestowed earlier this year by The Princeton Review, speaks well for Rice's reputation.

Muñoz said Rice's success in the "best value" category is rooted in its history, stemming from the university's previous policy of no tuition, which lasted from its founding in 1912 until 1965.

"Rice is known for presenting a much less expensive education," Muñoz said. "There is a consciousness at Rice, a sensitivity to be mindful about the tuition charge.

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