An increased size means increased opportunities
Since I came to Rice University, many students have blamed everything from the waitlist system to the alcohol probation on the increased size of the student body. Increased enrollment is the favored scapegoat of the Rice community because it is a large change to Rice that has occurred in a short period of time. We, as a whole, have not emphasized the positive changes that this increased size can bring to Rice in both the present and future. The Vision for the Second Century student body goal of 3,800 students offers the Rice community more career, international and alumni opportunities.
With an increased size, Rice offers companies and nonprofits a larger pool of applicants and future employees. Currently, our career fair opportunities are growing but are still limited primarily to energy or consulting companies. With more students, different companies will be attracted to Rice by the high quality and quantity of students that Rice has to offer. The Center for Career Development has done a great job this year of increasing its visibility on campus and providing students with better career opportunities, but it still has room to improve. The CCD should point to the increased student body as a reason for a variety of employers to recruit on campus.
Globalization will continue to play a major role in 21st-century life, and Rice needs to compete on an increasingly international playing field. For instance, with the fast paced development occurring in Asia and Latin America, we will soon see more competition from universities in those areas. Increasing our student body size will attract a wider variety of prospective students and allow us to better compete with international universities. As the second smallest school in the Association of American Universities, we need to increase our numbers to increase our visibility.
Furthermore, although we have been steadily increasing enrollment, the close relationship between students and professors is not being jeopordized. Our faculty to student ratio is still 6-to-1 and 70 percent of our classes have less than 20 students. Thus, Rice has maintained a commitment to our high levels of interaction between faculty and students while increasing the student body.
Also, building a strong alumni network is critical to increasing a university's impact in the world. Proud alumni are a great way to spread Rice's reputation and therefore increase our pool of highly competitive applicants. With 30 percent more students, Rice will be able to increase its number of alumni in the next several years as well. As we all know, Rice was ranked number one in the Princeton Review for overall quality of life and student happiness; in the future, our happy students will turn into happy alumni. These happy and loyal alumni will provide a tighter network for social and career support. With more alumni, we will be able to strengthen and grow our network for many years to come.
However, before we can see the full benefits of the opportunities, many changes must be made at Rice. First, we must make sure that we grow the faculty in areas that interest students the most, perhaps even hiring more lecturers for introductory courses like Physics 101. Second, we must hold President David Leebron to his initial vision to increase the percentage of students that can be housed on campus from the current 71 percent to 80 percent. Third, we must increase the quantity of campus-wide amenities that are available to us, mainly by building a new student center. Students need a more modern place to come together for class and extracurricular collaboration of all kinds.
Increasing our size has not made Rice any less of the institution that it was. In fact, we have been able to heighten our commitment to research and leadership by allowing even more students to come to Rice. With increased career and alumni opportunities, Rice will be able situate itself as an important member of society in the next century. Additionally, increasing our size raises our competitiveness on the now truly international playing field of higher education. In short, embrace the increased student enrollment and think of the immense opportunities that it affords us all.
Christian Neal is a Lovett College sophomore and president of Lovett College.
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