Building a more financially inclusive Rice undergraduate experience
At universities across the U.S., including Rice, conversations about inclusion and the affordability of college are ongoing. The last few years have seen growing attention to financial accessibility and the inclusiveness of the Rice experience, and we are impressed by the positive spirit and heartfelt care that so many members of our community have shown toward others. What is notable is how this attention and care cuts across all levels of the university, ranging from the launch of The Rice Investment (designed to expand access to a Rice education for low- and middle-income undergraduates) to student leaders working to facilitate equivalent access to experiential opportunities by establishing accessibility funds within each of the residential colleges.
Providing a transformative collegiate experience requires continual attention to how we are helping students thrive at Rice. Over the last year, the Dean of Undergraduates division and the Student Association have expanded discussion and activity surrounding the Rice experience for lower-income and first-generation FLI undergraduates. In response to conversations with members of our community, we added two new staff members to the Office of Student Success Initiatives to provide targeted programming and advising to our FLI students and expanded SSI’s programming (e.g., we launched The Pantry, and expanded FLI Friday to help build community amongst FLI students). Programs in other university areas were launched as well (e.g., a need-based stipend program for Orientation Week coordinators and free menstrual products across campus through the Student Association).
Now, we’d like to bring student attention to two new initiatives that need community buy-in: First, in collaboration with Housing & Dining, a new guest swipes sharing program is starting this semester. Inspired by SA leaders, this program will allow students to donate guest meal swipes to peers who face food insecurity. This effort joins the SSI Pantry as another move forward in our efforts to reduce food insecurity on our campus. We encourage you to share your swipes that might otherwise go unused when the form is released this week to the colleges.
Second, the new Access and Opportunity Portal just went live at aop.rice.edu. This is a one-stop location for students to learn about funding resources at Rice. Undergraduate students with financial need can use the portal to request support for various educational, experiential, career-building and social activities. It also provides information on how to request emergency aid in periods of a financial crisis. It is our hope that the portal will provide clarity about available resources and help undergraduates more fully access the Rice experience. We are immensely thankful to those who worked to make this portal a reality, including student leaders and especially our dedicated staff in the Office of Academic Advising, the Center for Career Development and SSI. We encourage you to access this portal as well as normalize seeking financial help in your communities by encouraging others to do the same.
Finally, at the close of last semester, the SA released a report on financial accessibility at Rice. The culmination of a year of research, it provides a thoughtful assessment of different ways we can continue to promote a successful experience for all students — including expanding student access to professional opportunities, enhancing recruitment of financially diverse students, building our academic support infrastructure and continuing to expand resources in support of low-income and first-generation student quality of life. We encourage everyone to read it. Together, we are working collaboratively with leaders across campus to use this report as a guide for further growing activities around financial inclusion at Rice. If you are interested in joining these conversations, we encourage you to reach out via email.
We hope that each of you will join us in these efforts, as success requires ongoing and thoughtful attention to how all opportunities — big and small, formal and informal — can be designed so that every student, no matter their financial background, benefits from the full range of curricular, co-curricular and social opportunities at Rice.
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