Rice has work to do to improve social mobility
Conversations around wealth inequality on campus have picked up in the past few years, with initiatives ranging from food pantries to stipends for student leaders created with the intent to bridge the gap. However, all the free Beer Bike T-shirts in the world don’t make up for that fact that Pell Grant recipients at Rice face a lower graduation rate than students who do not receive financial aid. Research from the Office of Institutional Research (see News, p. 2) points to a greater issue of weak social mobility at Rice, evidenced by our ranking as No. 204 in Top Performers on Social Mobility by U.S. News and World Report. Even with subsidized tickets and T-shirts, students can’t enjoy Esperanza or Beer Bike if they’re worrying about making it to graduation.
The Rice Investment does not bridge this gap. It doesn’t matter if Rice is receiving more applicants from lower-income backgrounds and admitting an economically diverse student body (side note: there’s plenty of work to do) if low-income students are not given the right tools to succeed.
Upon matriculating at Rice, the 15 percent of Rice students who are recipients of Pell Grants are told about resources that, while available, are not highly accessible. Applications to use magisters’ funds are not standardized across colleges, so some students do not know how to obtain funding. Even if these resources are available, asking for assistance can feel intimidating and demeaning at a university where over half of the student body doesn’t need help paying for college at all and almost 10 percent of students came from the top 1 percent as recently as 2017. Other students can also do more to prevent the imposter syndrome that results from being part of a small, invisible group of students without economic resources. The status quo is still not enough. In light of the OIR data, both the administration and student body should double down on efforts to support lower-income students through proactive outreach from support structures, greater allocation of money and resources to those structures and increased self-awareness of the privilege gaps that remain in the student body.
[11/16/2019 10:18 p.m.]: This article has been updated to reflect that SSI’s food pantry is open from 9 to 5 p.m. when the office is open.
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