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Editorial: The right investment: Rice expands access

By Thresher Editorial Board     9/19/18 9:03am

On Tuesday, Rice announced a program it’s calling The Rice Investment, a sweeping expansion of its need-based financial aid set to begin in the fall of next year. Families making between $65,000 and $130,000 per year will receive grants covering the entire cost of tuition, currently $46,600 per year. In addition to receiving full-tuition grants, those making less than $65,000 will also receive grants that cover fees, room and board. Households making under $200,000 will not be asked to take out loans as part of their financial aid package and will have at least half their tuition covered. 

The Thresher Editorial Board applauds the Board of Trustees and President David Leebron for demonstrating Rice’s dedication to financial accessibility. In an era in which wealth inequality is at an all-time high, this material commitment to helping low- and moderate-income students climb the socioeconomic ladder by pursuing their academic passions is welcome news. Though the program will require a $150 million fundraising drive, we at the Thresher believe there is no better use of Rice’s money than expanding access to the university we’re proud to call home.

This is a revolutionary step even for a university known for its commitment to a phrase that has become its mantra: “Unconventional Wisdom.” Rice’s financial aid program is now better than Harvard’s and comparable to Princeton’s, which is among the most generous in the United States. While every private university ranked No. 20 or higher by U.S. News and World Report offers need-based financial aid, The Rice Investment’s massive scope distinguishes it among  these elite ranks.  



According to a tool created by the New York Times, Rice already excels among its peers in providing an elite education to low- and middle-income students. Among the 15 colleges ranked with or above Rice by US News and World Report, only four admit more students in the bottom 40 percent of household incomes than Rice. It ranks seventh among this cohort in mobility — its ability to move students from the bottom 40 percent to the top 40 percent. This new financial aid policy stands to improve Rice’s ability to serve a population often left behind by elite colleges.

The message from Rice is clear: if you’ve got what it takes, you shouldn’t have to worry about what it costs. There’s a place for every high-achieving student inside these hedges, no matter how much your family makes.

While it’s financially untenable to eliminate tuition entirely — someone has to pay professors’ salaries —  The Rice Investment harkens back to Rice’s tuition-free roots. This is a bold step, and we agree with President Leebron: Talent does deserve opportunity.



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