WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo met with state lawmakers and students Tuesday to discuss the potential expansion of her Rhode Island Promise program.
The program is currently only available to high school graduates looking to attend the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI). The scholarship covers the cost of tuition and fees for two years as long as students earn a 2.5 grade point average and 15 credits per semester.
The Raimondo administration launched the program in 2017. State data shows 1,577 students received the scholarship that year and 62% of them returned to the school for their second year.
“It is an investment but the results are great,” Raimondo said. “More students are going, more students are graduating. That’s one thing I am so happy to hear about.”
CCRI students shared their experience with the program Tuesday, crediting it with allowing them to continue their education.
Andres Escobar said he learned of the Promise scholarship through his guidance counselor at Classical High School in Providence.
“I knew exactly what I wanted to do, I just didn’t have the means to do it,” Escobar said. “Coming to school for free was a big thing for me, and not having to worry about having to pay bills just because I wanted to continue my education.”
Olivia Nugent said she is extremely thankful for the program and how it helped her continue her studies.
“I wasn’t eligible for half the scholarships out there because we made a little too much money, but not enough where I could actually afford to go to college without scholarships or grants,” she said. “Once they announced the Promise scholarship I was like, ‘That is an excellent opportunity.'”
Nugent said she’s not only seen the Promise scholarship change her life, but also the lives of some of her friends as well. She said several of her friends who weren’t planning to go to college are now graduating thanks to the scholarship.
Raimondo is looking to expand RI Promise to include Rhode Island College (RIC) students and CCRI students over the age of 25.
“The existing program is working. We live in a world now where almost every good job requires something past high school. We need to make it a reality for most Rhode Islanders,” Raimondo said. “Not only can we afford it, we can’t afford not to do it.”
Her revised plan would make RIC students who earn 60 credits and maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average during their freshman and sophomore years eligible for the scholarship. It would also make CCRI students over 25 years old eligible for up to four years of free tuition if they earn at least 18 credits a year.
Raimondo’s revised plan does have stipulations, however. Students who used the Promise scholarship to attend CCRI are not eligible for free tuition at RIC.
The House Committee on Education will hold a hearing on the expansion plan Wednesday.
On Thursday, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello released a statement to Eyewitness News saying the state may not have the money to expand the program.
“We have very limited resources and adding any new programs is going to be very difficult to do this year,” he said.