When Mary Anne ’94 and Mark Payne ’95 heard about The Rice Investment, they felt the significance of the announcement on a deeply personal level. Mary Anne recalls when her family had to navigate the challenges of bankruptcy halfway into her freshman year. “I didn’t receive any aid when I started out — but then everything changed,” Mary Anne remembers. “Rice stepped up, and it was such a gift.”

Both beneficiaries of scholarships, Mark and Mary Anne were able to pay off their remaining student debt in just a few years while starting their family and their careers in financial consulting. For them, The Rice Investment represents the chance to ensure students today can experience the same progression without being overburdened by debt.

"Rice took care of us. Now, we're excited to return the favor and help as many students as we can."

“People who graduate with all of this debt, it's such a burden,” says Mary Anne. “They must wonder, was the college education worth it if they can't even afford to save for a house? I think relieving that kind of weight is so important, so that they can start to build a good life.”

They are also excited about chipping away at the perception that Rice might be out of reach. “Our kids are in high school,” says Mary Anne. “We have heard their friends say, ‘Oh, I can't go to Rice. I can't afford it.’ I tell them, ‘No, you should apply anyway because there is financial aid.’ People really feel limited by the cost of tuition.”

As supporters of the Rice Annual Fund for more than 15 years, even when it was a stretch, the Paynes also view The Rice Investment as reestablishing the university’s core values. “I think it gets back to what Rice's goal originally was,” Mark says. “That it was going to be an institution where everyone could actually go and not just wealthy people.”

This year, they plan on designating their gift toward The Rice Investment.

“We have had so many great memories and experiences,” Mary Anne says. “We learned and we were challenged to actually think. Now we give back so that students today can have this experience as well.”

Adds Mark: “For all the good Rice has given to us, we give back.”


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