Rice University Reveals Expansion Plan To Increase Student Body, Campus Size By 2025

The university’s Board of Trustees approved the expansion plan to enlarge the student body by 20% over the next five years and open a 12th residential hall.

Chriis Paul/Houston Public Media
Rice University’s administration building.

Rice University is planning to increase its student body and construct several new buildings by 2025, a growth plan that the school said would help grow its image nationwide and help diversify its campus.

The efforts are in reaction to the uptick in admission applicants, with an applicant pool that has increased by 75% over the last four years.

Officials are hoping the expansion will contribute to their larger effort of expanding the accessibility of the university to more international and underrepresented groups, according to David Leebron, Rice University president.

"Rice's extraordinary applicant pool has grown dramatically despite the challenges posed by the pandemic," read a statement from Leebron. "We must undertake this expansion carefully in order to assure that we retain the best aspects of Rice culture, student experience and sense of community."

This announcement comes after a year of students of color urging the administration to increase diversity in both the student body and faculty. Black Rice students also protested the statue of the enslaver William Marsh Rice, who willed his fortune to found Rice University.

"His legacy is a constant reminder to many Black students of what Rice University used to be like and what it stood for," Black Rice students wrote in a university demand letter. "We believe that there could be numerous better options to represent the heart of our university and acknowledge Rice's racist past."

The latest demographic numbers show white professors made up 76% of the faculty and white students made up 43% of the student body at Rice. University officials said a rise in enrollment would “continue developing a more diverse and dynamic environment on campus.”

Despite the criticism, Rice was recently named the No.1 school for "race/class interaction" by the Princeton Review. Rice officials credit the newfound popularity among prospective students with the implementation of the Rice Investment program launched in 2018.

The financial aid program significantly expanded support for domestic students from families with incomes up to $200,000. The median income in the U.S. was $78,500 in 2020, according to U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development data.

"With the previous expansion, we greatly increased our national and international student applications, enrollment and visibility," Leebron said. "We also dramatically increased diversity on our campus, and we were able to extend the benefits of a Rice education to many more students."

The new construction will include a new engineering building, a new building for the visual and dramatic arts, an additional residential college and an expanded student center. The university will also be remodeling the landscape of the campus to accommodate the growing student body.

The renovated student center will be designed by the international architecture firm Adjaye Associates, the architects behind the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Rice's new three-story, 80,000-square-foot student center will maintain the multicultural center along with a number of gathering and event spaces, according to Robert Ladd, chair of the Rice Board of Trustees.

"Expanding the student body now will also expand Rice's future alumni base across the nation and around the world," Ladd said. "Welcoming more students to the Rice campus today will have an impact on the university for generations to come."

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