Here's the dilemma: Rice is offering my son a half scholarship to Rice, and Duke is not. But he feels that Duke has more of a sports presence, a better name to grad schools, employers, etc., a better location (cooler weather), Greek life appeals to him, and Duke has great running trails and a more accessible music program for non-majors. What can I tell him to give Rice a fair playing ground? Which would you choose?
I would choose Rice. When I was applying to college, I got accepted by some other comparable top schools. Rice decided to pay for almost all my education, making the decision simple. The Duke degree is not worth 25 extra grand a year. Save that money for medical school/B school etc. or invest it. Now, if he really likes Duke over Rice (as a school and feels he would be happier there), then 25k may be worth it, as long as it is not a financial strain on the family.
I firmly believe in going where you will be the happiest. Out of the things you listed:
Good reasons to choose Duke:
a better location (cooler weather), Greek life appeals to him, and Duke has great running trails and a more accessible music program for non-majors.
a better name to grad schools, employers, etc.,
Rice is offering a nice amount of $$
Use the whole "I could buy two Porsches or a small house for the difference." assertion. And make sure to include that they're both top 20 schools, and since Rice offers intramural sports, maybe he could actually play instead of just watch, as he'd do at Duke. This is if this sort of thing interests him. Plus Rice is in a pretty large city, is a good size, is rumored to have an excellent student body, along with some of the best food of any college. Also tell him that his post-undergraduate schooling (grad school, law school, med school, etc.) is what's important, and this way, you'll have the option of paying for him to attend wherever he wants.
Rice has a decent amount of...I guess you'd call it pseudo-greek life. I'm sure most people actually in fraternities would kill me for saying it, but though we don't have official houses/dues/etc, it's not a hard environment to emulate. Each college throws its own parties, has its own social structure, plans events and runs internal government - I know a lot of people who wanted to rush elsewhere but don't miss it.
Rice has a few decent running trails in the surrounding area; I'd be happy to pass along the ones I've found. And I'm another person who turned down a few Ivies for a Rice scholarship. I may be in a more dire financial situation (that is to say I didn't have a choice in the matter), but saving that extra money for grad school could really be worth it, especially if any unforeseen emergencies pop up.
4 family members are Duke grads, including yours truly. One a recent Rice grad. IMHO the Rice residential college system is a much better learning environment than the Greek system. The 5/1 student to faculty ratio at Rice is real. Nearly all faculty teach undergrads and seem to enjoy doing so. Opportunities for undergrad research in engineering and the sciences are more accessible at Rice. The Rice community is more diverse and the liberal arts faculty more devoted to teaching than to political indoctrination.
Choosing Duke's name over Rice's name is ridiculous. While it may not seem like Rice is well-known when you talk to random people on the street ("Rice? Where's that? Never heard of it.") in other parts of the country, it's well-known and has an excellent reputation where it counts.
People in HR positions or other positions that involve hiring know that Rice is an excellent school. When it comes to the name of the school, it doesn't matter whether the kid in the mail room has heard of it. What matters is what the person responsible for hiring or not hiring you thinks of the school.
For example, I'm doing an internship at a law firm. The partner I work for knew that Rice had a good reputation (and suggested that my writing/reading skills are likely quite good given that I'm going to Rice), but a few of my fellow interns know little (if anything) about it.
There is a major difference in reputation between Duke and a state school (where "state school" excludes UMich and other highly reputable public universities). There is not a major difference in reputation between Duke and Rice.
@ OP: I spent a year at Rice before transferring to Duke for program reasons. I wanted to major in environmental sciences, and Rice didn't even have a dept, whereas Duke has an entire school of the environment.Thus, I'm very familiar with both schools, having spent a year as an undergrad at both.
It is true that more people are familiar with Duke than Rice... Duke basketball and its larger size helps. I also do think Duke has a stronger alumni network, at least outside of Texas. If your son wants to go into ibanking/consulting, the major firms (i.e. Goldman Sachs) recruit more heavily at Duke although some do recruit at Rice as well.
Nevertheless, I think the quality of education is very good at both, and in some regards, I would say Rice has a slightly better quality of education with the residential college system and access to Houston. Companies and grad schools will know the quality of a Rice education. Professors at Rice are a slightly more devoted to undergrads from my experience, but in all honesty, it depends on the professors you get. However, that being said, I've been quite pleased with most of my Duke professors.
I don't think research opportunities at Rice are more accessible; I know tons of undergrads at Duke also doing research. To be honest, Durham and Houston weather are quite comparable; the weather is slightly more mild in Durham. In August/September, it is equally hot in both places, and in the winter, it is slightly cooler in Durham. The Outer Loop of Rice's campus is about 3 miles in length, and it is a great place to run, especially since Rice is in a very well-heeled neighborhood of Houston. Plus, there is SO MUCH more to do in Houston than in Durham.
I wouldn't choose a school based on a name. Tell your son to choose where he will be happiest. Rice also has a better music program than Duke in my opinion, since it has Shepherd School. I've had friends at Rice who were engineering students who took classes at Rice's Shepherd School of Music, so you can definitely take classes there even if you are not majoring in music. The music program at Duke is good, but it is also quite small.
It looks like your son can achieve what he wants at Rice. He will have access to running trails (Outer Loop) on-campus and at a city park that's walking distance from campus, he will have access to music classes for non-majors taught by some extraordinary faculty, and he will be part of a smaller community (residential colleges are basically co-ed frats but without the exclusivity and some of the other negative aspects).
If you have any more questions about Rice/Duke, feel free to PM me.