Class of 2016 most diverse and talented in Rice history

This year’s freshman class is one for the history books. Not only are they the first class of Rice University’s next century, they also have the distinction of being the most academically talented, accomplished and diverse in the university’s history.

Chris Muñoz, vice president for enrollment at Rice, said that the students of this entering class have higher test scores, higher grade point averages, have taken more rigorous courses and have performed at a higher rate than the last group of entering freshmen, which also was the best to date on all of those criteria.

“Based on objective data, academic quality is up,” Muñoz said. “Those are just the raw facts.”

And the numbers don’t lie. Student SAT scores are at an eight-year high, with the SAT 25th percentile for incoming students at 1,380 (meaning that 75 percent of Rice students scored 1,380 or higher on their combined SAT), and the 75th percentile for incoming students at 1,510 (meaning that 25 percent of Rice students scored 1,510 or higher).

But the class has more than just exceptional grades: Its members boast accomplishments that one would expect from seasoned professionals, not college freshmen. A Junior Olympic medalist, an award-winning student playwright, a business owner, prizewinning scientists, national and international award-winning musicians and student humanitarians are among the exceptionally accomplished individuals in Rice’s Class of 2016.

And more and more students are interested in Rice than ever before, with the applicant pool growing 10 percent from last year alone and almost 100 percent (from more than 8,000 to more than 15,000) since 2006. That was the year that the Rice Board of Trustees approved the university’s Vision for the Second Century, a 10-point plan that called for a gradual 30 percent increase in the undergraduate student body to “realize more fully our ambition as an institution of national and international distinction that attracts the very best students and researchers from around the globe.”

“It’s a strong indication that more and more prospective students and families are interested in Rice,” Muñoz said.

Selectivity at Rice has also increased, with the acceptance rate moving from 26 percent to 17 percent over the past five years. This year, Rice admitted 39 percent of applicants with perfect academic records, compared with 58 percent five years ago, and 25 percent of applicants with only one B, compared with 45 percent five years ago.

“These numbers really show the proportion of students with truly exceptional academic records that are applying to Rice,” Muñoz said.

In addition to being exceptionally talented, the freshman class is more ethnically, racially, geographically and socio-economically diverse than ever before. Thirty-six percent of this year’s incoming class are international students or underrepresented minorities, compared with 26.5 percent in 2006. More than 56 percent of the class hails from outside of Texas – compared with 53 percent in 2006 – with 8 percent from the Midwest, 9 percent from the Northeast, 15 percent from the South and 15 percent from the West. Ten percent are international students and 1 percent are U.S. residents living abroad.

Fifteen percent of this year’s freshmen are the first in their family to attend college, compared with 6 percent in 2006.

“We are committed to helping those students who have financial need,” Muñoz said. “Rice’s history and values, coupled with our generous financial aid policies, are the biggest reasons we have the number of first-generation college students that we do.”

He added that Rice’s tuition rate is at least $5,000 to $7,000 less than that of its peer institutions.

Overall, student diversity and academic quality have continued to improve since the Vision for the Second Century was created, and that’s clear by the exceptional students that make up Rice’s Class of 2016, Muñoz said.

He said these developments are indicative of the great collegiate experience Rice provides for its students. “It represents the high quality of what we offer here,” he said.

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About Amy Hodges

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.