R.I. joins states proposing free tuition

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo this week announced Rhode Island's Promise proposal. Photo from an earlier event courtesy of the office of Gov. Gina RaimondoRhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo this week announced Rhode Island's Promise proposal. Photo from an earlier event courtesy of the office of Gov. Gina Raimondo

Rhode Island is joining the growing list of states with a $30 million proposal to cover two years of tuition at their public colleges for qualifying students.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina M. Raimondo this week announced Rhode Island’s Promise, which would guarantee two years of free college for graduating resident high school students who complete their degree on time from the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI), Rhode Island College (RIC) and the University of Rhode Island (URI). The program would start with high school seniors who graduate this spring.

“Rhode Island’s Promise honors our commitment to Rhode Island students who are asking for nothing more than a fair chance,” Raimondo said at an event on Monday where she announced the plan.

Economic ties

Raimondo noted that today’s jobs require more than a high school education, which is why the proposal is critical for the state’s economy. More than 70 percent of jobs in Rhode Island will require a postsecondary degree in the coming years, yet less than half of the state’s adult population currently has a degree beyond high school, according to the governor’s office.

At the same time, almost 90 percent of Rhode Island 12th graders say that they plan to attend college, yet less than two thirds of students enroll.

“We know that our students face significant financial challenges that can stall or even stop their progress,” said CCRI President Meghan Hughes. “By offering two years of free college to our state’s high school graduates, the Rhode Island’s Promise increases their ability to persist, complete their associate degrees and certificate programs, and pursue a bachelor’s degree and high-quality careers right here in Rhode Island.”

A national trend

The plan would cover tuition and mandatory fees for full-time students who qualify for in-state tuition earning an associate degree at CCRI. At RIC and URI, the scholarship would cover tuition and fees for a student’s junior and senior years.

Rhode Island is the latest among states seeking to financially help their resident students with college costs. Earlier this month, New York’s governor proposed covering the first two years of college at any public college or university in the state. The movement among states was started by the Tennessee Promise, which kicked off last year.

In addition to states, municipalities, colleges and other organizations have started their own college Promise efforts over the past several years since President Barack Obama presented a proposal to offer two years of free community college to qualifying students.

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