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Rice should beat down ever-rising tuition

By Michael He     12/3/14 1:23am

When I heard about students at University of California, Berkeley organizing a sit-in to protest the UC system’s approval of a five percent increase in tuition per year, amounting to a $612 increase next year, I actually scoffed. This laughter was not in belittlement of the tuition increase or in disregard for the plight of UC students; rather, I was bitterly amused at how much publicity this increase was receiving when Rice University has routinely increased student tuition by over three times that amount for the past decade.

Rice had been consistently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as being a “Best Value College,” but I feel as if this is an artifact from the days when Rice offered a tuition competitive with state schools rather than Ivy Leagues. Tuition at Rice this year was $39,880, a $2,200 increase from last year, whereas Harvard University’s tuition was $42,292 for the 2013-14 academic year. I cannot profess to be knowledgeable about the financials involved in running an institution like Rice, but with a nearly $5 billion endowment, it confuses me why there seems to be a need to annually squeeze more and more out of students, especially at a rate nearly double the rate of inflation. Rice’s current tuition is nearly twice as much as it was in 2004. If tuition increases continue along this trend, the class of 2016 will have paid nearly $10,000 more in tuition than the class of 2012.

Much has been made of Rice’s “Vision for the Second Century” and the cost of educating a Rice student versus the cost of tuition, but I wonder how much legitimacy there is to that argument. The administration worries about students not getting into classes while simultaneously increasing matriculating class sizes. College kick lists have grown increasingly longer as more students are admitted than we have room for. Why, then, is the cost of attendance increasing when the value seems to be rapidly diminishing?

These issues are undoubtedly part of Rice’s current growing pains, but I would be quick to ignore these problems if it weren’t for the absurdly high cost of attendance. I understand that not every student at Rice pays full sticker price, but, as RAFSI constantly reminds us, someone still foots the difference in cost for students offered financial aid. If I were an alumnus, I would be outraged that a full scholarship given in 2004 would barely cover half of today’s cost of attendance. As a future alumnus, I question if this cost is justified.

RAFSI’s statistic that the cost to educate a Rice student costs nearly twice the tuition cost makes me wonder where I’m getting a nearly $100,000 education value per year.

Student debt and exponentially increasing tuition prices have become a major problem for students, so why doesn’t Rice table the visions of massive open online courses in favor of leading an unconventional fight against greatly inflated tuition prices? If Rice truly wants the brightest minds filling the frigid Herzstein Amphitheater, why not make Rice an even more tempting prospect by making tuition much more competitive with that of our rivals? If Rice wants alumni to donate, why not reduce the amount of student debt so that alumni have the capability to give back soon after graduation rather than decades after?

I love Rice with all of my heart, but I’m concerned about its trajectory. I’m concerned that Rice is looking more toward dollars than change.

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