What Is Rice University Known For?

What is Rice University known for? Pioneering research, exceptional science programs, and world-class alumni — find the details here.
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Rice University has a long reputation as a prestigious institution of higher learning, and it is especially known for its programs in science and engineering. World-class research facilities include the Rice Quantum Institute, the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology, and the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.

Rice's reputation as a top school extends back to its founding in 1891. It has continued to pioneer new research frontiers, such as when it opened the first space science department in the U.S. in 1963. Below, you can learn about some of Rice's top programs, notable alums, and total costs to help you decide whether it is a good fit for you.

Cost and Financial Aid

The undergraduate tuition cost at Rice University for the 2023-2024 academic year is $57,210. Students also pay $920 in mandatory fees. Rice suggests students will need $15,900 for living expenses, including food and housing, plus $1,400 for books and $2,850 for personal expenses.

In total, that's an annual cost of $78,280. The total average four-year tuition and fees are around $313,000, without accounting for increased costs over time.

However, Rice works with families to reduce the out-of-pocket cost of college. The average first-year financial aid package at Rice University is $57,380, meaning families receiving financial aid are responsible for an average of $20,900 annually.

Financial Aid Breakdown
Type of Financial Aid Students Receiving Aid Average Aid Awarded
Federal Grant Aid 45% $3,230
State Grant Aid N/A $3,420
Institution Grant Aid 60% $45,433
Pell Grant 16% $4,747

Top Programs at Rice University

Rice University is known for its science and engineering programs, including the first space science department in the U.S., which can prepare graduates to pursue jobs at NASA. With a low student-to-faculty ratio of just 6-to-1, Rice offers personalized guidance to its students.

While you can learn more about the most popular programs below, other top degrees from Rice include mechanical engineering, kinesiology and exercise science, bioengineering and biomedical engineering, and biochemistry.

Computer Science

Rice's computer science department awards more bachelor's degrees than any other department at the school. The program aims to advance the frontiers of computing through research, education, and service.

Students who enroll in a computer science program take classes like matrix analysis, linear algebra, computational thinking, principles of programming languages, and compiler construction.

Computer science faculty members at Rice have received several prestigious awards, distinctions, and fellowships, including IEEE Frances E. Allen medals, Allen Newell awards, Knuth prizes, and IEEE, Royal Society, and ISCB fellowships.


Rice University's economics department has seen expansion in recent years through its Rice Initiative for the Study of Economics. It is now a leading institution for the study of structural empirical microeconomics. The department is committed to advancing knowledge in all areas of theoretical, empirical, and applied economics and understanding the implications for public policy.

Economics degree coursework includes microeconomics, macroeconomics, applied econometrics, and game theory. Faculty members have published popular textbooks and many major academic papers.


Rice's psychological sciences department covers a blend of basic and applied psychology. As the department's primary emphasis is on research — in both laboratory and applied settings — students can get a first-hand understanding of cutting-edge psychological research.

Research interest groups in the department include cognitive and affective neuroscience, health psychology and behavioral medicine, human factors and human-computer interaction, industrial and organizational psychology, psychometrics, and quantitative psychology.

The curriculum includes classes like social psychology, cognitive psychology, statistical methods and social sciences statistics, and research methods. The faculty are actively involved in research areas like human performance modeling.

Featured Online Programs

Prominent Achievements and Research Initiatives

Rice University is a comprehensive research university that has contributed to major scientific breakthroughs for decades. Rice consistently ranks among the nation's top research universities, with many recent breakthroughs related to nanotechnology.


In 1996, Professors Robert F. Curl and Richard E. Smalley of Rice shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry for nanotechnology technology innovations related to the discovery of buckminsterfullerene (i.e., the “buckyball”) and other fullerenes.

These revolutionary carbon cages opened a new field of chemical study with practical applications from nanotechnology to materials science and electronics. Researchers continue to develop these applications today.

Robot Design

Lydia Kavraki, the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science at Rice University, received IEEE’s Robotics and Automation Society Pioneer Award for her fundamental contributions to robot design, including the invention of randomized motion planning algorithms and probabilistic roadmaps.

Notable Alums

Shannon Walker

Shannon Walker, a Rice University alum (class of 1987), holds a bachelor's degree in physics, as well as a master's degree and Ph.D. in space physics. Selected as a NASA astronaut in 2004, she embarked on her first space mission on June 25, 2010, spending over 330 days in space.

Anthony Rendon

Anthony Rendon, a Rice University baseball standout, won the 2010 Dick Howser Trophy. Drafted sixth overall by the Nationals in 2011, Rendon now plays third base for the Los Angeles Angels in MLB. He actively supports charities, particularly in his hometown of Houston.

Jo Ling Kent

Jo Ling Kent is a journalist and correspondent for CBS News. With a bachelor's in history, she has reported for NBC, Fox Business, and CNN, covering topics such as the economy, tech, AI, presidential campaigns, and greater China. She is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Alberto R. Gonzales

Alberto R. Gonzales earned his bachelor's degree with honors in political science in 1979 from Rice University. Gonzales is a former Texas Secretary of State, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and White House Counsel. Gonzales was the first Hispanic White House Counsel.

Fun Facts About Rice University

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    The architecture building at Rice University has a row of holes on the door of its entrance called Frog Wall. If you run your finger along them, it makes the sound of a frog chirping.
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    Rice's infamous “Baker 13” involves students running around campus wearing nothing but shaving cream and shoes at 10 p.m. on the 13th and 31st of every month. The biggest runs happen on Halloween and the first and last runs of the school year.
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    Rice also hosts an annual “Beer Bike” event, in which teams of two compete in a combination bicycle race. One person chugs beer, and the other cycles as soon as they finish.
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    Rice is known for its “Harry Potter housing,” where students are arranged into 11 dorm houses with dining halls and public rooms.
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    Rice students also have a long tradition of pulling pranks. For example, engineering students once rotated the statue of the founder by 180 degrees to face their library. In another prank, students replaced their dorm common room chairs with chairs made of popsicle sticks.

Frequently Asked Questions About Rice University

Is Rice University Ivy League?

Rice University is a highly prestigious and selective university known for its science and engineering programs, but it is not among the eight Ivy League schools. The Ivy League schools are private universities located in the northeastern U.S.

The eight Ivy League schools are Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University.

Where is Rice University located?

Rice University is a private research university located in Houston, Texas. Rice's heavily wooded campus occupies 300 acres in Houston's Museum District. Rice is centrally located near shopping areas, cultural hotspots, and medical care facilities.

Is Rice University public or private?

Rice University is a private institution. It was founded in 1912 as William Marsh Rice University. This private institution had a total enrollment of 8,565 students in 2022. Some of the advantages of Rice University include its world-class research facilities, a beautiful campus, and many private scholarships and grants to support students.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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