WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Lawmakers met Thursday night to discuss funding for the R.I. Promise scholarship program, which is set to end this year.
The scholarship gives high school seniors a free two years at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) and has been one of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s signature initiatives. She started the program in 2017, but included a sunset clause that ends it after the upcoming fall semester.
CCRI’s President Meghan Hughes testified in front of lawmakers asking them to get rid of the expiration date. She said the program is working and is worth the continued investment.
The lawmakers admitted the budget for this coming year is going to be tight.
CCRI’s records show an increase in graduation rates and the number of minority students enrolled since the program began.
Hughes said R.I. Promise also helps the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College. Of the 60% of program participants who transfer, 80% are going to one of the two state colleges.
CCRI said this year is already looking different, enrollment is down 30% this time last year. Hughes believes solidifying the scholarship program could help.
“We know that the promise of free college tuition is a powerful message,” Hughes said. “One that resonates with high school students who never believed college was in their future. By making this promise permanent, it will allow current high school students, and even today’s middle schoolers to see a path to a post secondary degree.”
Raimondo has previously pushed for the expansion of the program, but there is no word on where she thinks this fits in amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Lawmakers are set to discuss this year’s budget in the coming days.