New statistics released about free college tuition program
WARWICK, R.I. (AP) — About 40 percent of students who received free college tuition in the first year of a new program in Rhode Island earned the scholarship for a second year, the Community College of Rhode Island said Tuesday.
Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo went to CCRI’s Warwick campus to visit with students who are benefiting from the program she created. Afterward, Raimondo and college officials discussed the new statistics.
Out of roughly 725 students who received the full Rhode Island Promise scholarship last year, about 300 met the criteria to get it again this school year, they said.
Overall, there has also been an increase in the percentage of students on track to graduate in two years, they added.
Twenty-two percent are on track, which is up from 6 percent in the 2016-2017 school year, according to the statistics. The college looked at all of the full-time students who entered CCRI straight from high school in 2017, which would include students who received the scholarship and some who did not. The college did not have a separate statistic for only the Rhode Island Promise students readily available.
Raimondo said that while it’s still early, she thinks the program will prove to be “the most successful intervention ever in America to increase graduation rates.”
“This is $3 million and we’ve nearly quadrupled the number of students who are on the path to graduate on time with a degree,” Raimondo said. “We know the single most important thing we can do to supercharge this economy is to have more highly-skilled people. And for that very modest amount of money, this is a huge success. It has exceeded my expectations.”
Last year, Raimondo unveiled a plan to offer free tuition at the state’s three public colleges. Lawmakers scaled that back and a pilot program was launched at CCRI. Raimondo wants to expand the program to the other two colleges if she’s re-elected in November.
The five students she met with all earned the scholarship for their second year. They told her the program’s requirements motivated them to work hard.
Republican gubernatorial nominee Allan Fung says he would not continue the program as is because he feels not enough students met the criteria for the second year. Students who drop out after getting the first year for free do not have to repay the scholarship money, according to the college.
Fung said he would give students a tax credit after they graduate college to help with their student loans if they meet certain criteria, such as working in Rhode Island. He thinks some of the program’s funding should be invested into K-12 schools.
Independent Joe Trillo has said he’d likely continue the program at CCRI if he’s elected governor, but the state can’t afford an expansion. He wants to create new trades programs.