Rice University eliminates tuition for all but wealthiest students, makes housing free for poorest

From its founding in 1912 until 1965, Houston's Rice University was free to attend; but today, Rice has joined other US universities in saddling its students with ghastly, inescapable mountains of debt, with annual attendance costing $61,350, $40,000 of which is tuition.

Rice has promised to return to its roots. Starting in fall of 2019, students whose families earn less than $60,000 will pay nothing to attend, receiving free housing and tuition. Students whose families earn $60,000-$130,000 will not pay tuition. Students whose families earn $130,000-$200,000 are eligible for grants that defray tuition by as much as 50%.

The university will pay for this out of an endowment of $5.5B.

Rice is announcing the changes to its aid plan two years after its finances — and particularly its large endowment of more than $5.5 billion — became headline news. The school was among a group of wealthy universities that drew scrutiny from federal lawmakers for announcing plans to raise tuition in 2016.

In response, Rice said it used the endowment to cover around 40 percent of its operating costs. Officials also said the fund "covers more than 90 percent of their financial aid program," as Houston Chronicle reporter Benjamin Wermund told Houston Public Media.

Since then, the school's endowment has continued to thrive — and Leebron cited the fund's strong returns as one reason it is now able to make Rice more affordable to lower-income and middle-class families.

Rice University Says Middle-Class And Low-Income Students Won't Have To Pay Tuition [Bill Chappell/NPR]