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Rice University Offers Free Full Tuition to Low and Middle-Income Students

photo of Rice University which just announced a new plan for free tuition for low and middle-income students
The Rice Investment is a new plan to offer low and middle-income students free tuition at Rice University. Image via Wikimedia

Rice University announced a big new free tuition program for low and middle-income students, will other universities follow?

On Tuesday Rice University, a prestigious private university in Texas, announced a new plan called the Rice Investment which will offer full free scholarships to low and middle-income undergraduate students.

According to the U.S. News’ 2019 edition of Best Colleges, Rice University is ranked at number 19 on the best universities list, and annual undergraduate tuition costs $47,350.

With the new Rice Investment plan, applicants whose family incomes fall between $65,000 and $130,000 a year will be eligible for full-tuition scholarships and grants. Student’s whose families earn between $130,000 and $200,000 can receive scholarships that cover half of their tuition and for student’s whose family incomes fall below $65,000 they are eligible for grants that cover full tuition, room and board and mandatory fees.

The school says there is no cap on the number of students who can apply for the full-time undergraduate scholarships, but they must meet the income and financial eligibility requirements.

Are More Universities Addressing the Student Debt Problem?

Rice’s announcement comes as other universities around the country have announced similar programs and New York state enrolled its first four-year undergraduate recipients of a new free college tuition program at public universities.

Last year, the University of Michigan announced a similar plan for students whose families earn less than $65,000 a year.

“The prospect of borrowing to pay for your college education if you’re a low-income student can have a chilling effect on whether you even apply,” Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid expert and vice president at SavingForCollege.com, said. “Imagine being told that you’re going to have to borrow more for your entire education than your parents earn in a year. There have been lots of efforts to try to encourage more college-capable, low-income students to pursue a college education.”

While others applauded the move, they also added that Rice already had substantial financial aid program in place for low-income students.

“It sends a very important message that people need to hear: that they can afford a Rice education even if they don’t come from affluent families,” said Sandy Baum, author of the book Student Debt: Rhetoric and Realities of Higher Education Financing. “However, it is symbolic in the sense that Rice already has a very generous financial aid program.”

Baum noted that Harvard adopted a similar program for students whose families earn less than $180,000 a year but added that problems arise for students whose families earn just over the threshold income.

She told the Texas Standard it’s important to have a sloped or gradual financial aid program rather than a hard cut-off line and that financial aid is only one part of what must be a multi-pronged effort to make education more attainable. She suggested student employment, student loans, grants, contributions from parents and money from the universities themselves should all be part of the approach.

“I think a lot of colleges do more than they get credit for in that direction. Communicating this to students is really important,” Baum says.

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Lauren von Bernuth

Lauren is one of the co-founders of Citizen Truth. She graduated with a degree in Political Economy from Tulane University. She spent the following years backpacking around the world and starting a green business in the health and wellness industry. She found her way back to politics and discovered a passion for journalism dedicated to finding the truth.

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