Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Thursday, August 18, 2022 — Houston, TX

Make low-income students feel welcome at Rice

elizabeth-hergert-channing-wang-web
Channing Wang/Thresher

By Elizabeth Hergert     9/17/19 10:00pm

Sometimes as I walk around campus, I have to remind myself that I belong here and this is my school. I think that Rice is not truly mine because I can’t afford my own education. While I am incredibly grateful for the financial aid I receive and the opportunity I’ve been given to attend Rice, I am often reminded that my financial situation is uncommon at this university.

The first reminder occurred at the beginning of this year when, like everyone else on campus, I was automatically charged $2,482 for health insurance. Student insurance can only be waived if students can prove that their existing insurance is comparable to Rice’s student insurance. One of the qualifications to waive enrollment, arguably the most important, is that the deductible doesn’t exceed $5,000 per person insured. Given the fact that insurance plans with higher deductibles generally are more affordable, this policy hurts students from a low-income background, especially those who can’t pay for insurance in the first place. 

The cost of student insurance shouldn’t be an additional burden in the process of paying for college. While offering insurance through the school can provide coverage to those who might not have had access to insurance previously, the cost of student insurance presents a barrier to health care. By adding a specific provision for health insurance for those who can’t afford it, the Rice Investment could make our school more accessible for those from different backgrounds. 



The second reminder of my financial situation comes when I remember that the issues that I face aren’t always relatable. Other people complain about being a broke college student, too. Sometimes it made me think I’m not alone in the way that I feel about money: pressure to make the most of my expensive education and guilt that I didn’t go to a less expensive school or one that guaranteed a full scholarship all four years. But then those same people go on their annual expensive summer vacation to Europe and I’m left wondering if we really experience the same financial pressure. 

From a more objective perspective, 64 percent of students at Rice come from the top 20 percent of household-income earners, and 50 percent of students come from the top 10 percent of household-income earners. The median income for Rice families is $160,800, a number that was shocking to me when I first read it. On the other hand, 4.9 percent come from the bottom 20 percent of household-income earners. Only 15 percent of students receive Pell Grants. 

From the way that other students talked about money, I thought that a lot of us were similarly struggling, but students who are in a similar financial position as me make up a small portion of the Rice population. A lot of recent conversation on diversity has focused on race, as it should, but another aspect of diversity is economic background. 

In many regards, the administration has many areas of improvement to make Rice more accessible for students from low-income backgrounds, but the goal of inclusivity should not fall on the administration alone. The third reminder of my financial situation occurred when a budgeting activity for one of my classes was treated as a joke or an unthinkable hypothetical, not the reality that people living paycheck-to-paycheck face every time they have to weigh meeting a need versus paying the bills. 

My interactions with other students emphasize our differences. The fact that I am on a full scholarship is often met with jealousy. The fact that my insurance doesn’t cover dental and I haven’t been to the dentist in years? Not so much. The fact that I don’t have a car is strange. The fact that I got two jobs expressly to take the pressure off my family and not simply to build my resume? Even stranger. As students, we can do more to be aware of how our day-to-day rhetoric can make others feel out of place.

I am incredibly lucky to be at Rice. I feel anxious even writing this opinion piece because I know that being a student at Rice is a privilege in itself that many do not have and other students face similar or worse financial pressures. Additionally, other students have other aspects of their identity such as race and gender that bring different challenges to their sense of belonging at Rice. In other words, my account of life at Rice is certainly not the only one, but you can only find that out by including other students in campus conversations and initiatives. With the Rice Investment, many claimed that Rice would be more inclusive of students from low-income backgrounds, and to some extent, it did. However, consider perspectives outside your own, and you’ll find that Rice has some work to do to be as diverse as we can and should be. 



More from The Rice Thresher

OPINION 5/12/22 4:05pm
The Wellbeing Center should be transparent about its true confidentiality policies

Before you attend a counseling session at the Rice counseling center, you will be told that “the RCC maintains strict standards regarding privacy.” You will find statements from the university that your mental health record will not be shared with anyone outside of extreme situations of imminent harm, and only then that your information will be shared with only the necessary officials. This sounds great, except that these assurances bear no teeth whatsoever — no enforcement agency ensures that Rice follows its public confidentiality promises, and there are no penalties for Rice if they break them. The Wellbeing and Counseling Centers should more directly communicate the limits of their confidentiality policies when compared to unaffiliated counseling centers, and students in sensitive situations should take the necessary precautions to protect their information.

OPINION 4/19/22 11:11pm
We’re in student media to learn

This week marks the last issue of the Thresher for the year, and for the seniors like myself, our last issue ever. I have been a part of the Thresher since freshman year. And it would not be an exaggeration to say it has defined my Rice experience. As someone pursuing a career in journalism after graduation, there has been no better place to learn than at this paper.

OPINION 4/19/22 11:02pm
Philanthropy doesn’t excuse slavery

In January, the Rice Board of Trustees announced plans to move the Founder’s memorial to another area of the academic quad as part of a whole redesign, adding additional context of his “entanglement” with slavery. This comes despite continual calls from the student body to not have the enslaver displayed in the quad regardless of the context provided. It would be just for these calls to action and the majority of the Task Force Committee who voted to not keep it there that the Board of Trustees decide to not keep the memorial prominently displayed in the quad at all.


Comments

Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.