PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ With the swipe of a pen, the R.I. Promise Program was officially made permanent.

Gov. Dan McKee signed legislation Friday that codifies the program into state law.

“Signing this bill into law marks a significant investment in affordable, accessible higher education for Rhode Island students,” McKee said. “Rhode Island Promise has helped remove barriers many of our students face in seeking higher education, and encourages them to maintain good academic standing. Access to quality higher education supports our economy and our workforce, and enriches the lives of so many who call Rhode Island home.”

The program, which provides two years of free tuition for eligible residents to the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI), was set to expire in September.

When originally proposed by Gov. Gina Raimondo in 2017, the program was set to expire with the class that graduated high school in 2020, but the R.I. General Assembly included an expansion in the this year’s budget that would offer the program to students who are currently high school seniors.

“The promise program is an excellent example of how we can prioritize affordable college options for all Rhode Islanders,” House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi said. “The best investment we can make to help individuals achieve their goals is to give them the access to a college education, which is the pathway to a brighter future.”

To keep the scholarship, students must be full-time to qualify for in-state tuition, maintain at least a 2.5 GPA and remain on track to graduate on time. It funds only the remaining costs of tuition and mandatory student fees after scholarship funding is factored in.

“Thanks to the Rhode Island Promise Scholarship program, many more Rhode Islanders are going to college, graduating, and either continuing with their education or entering the workforce with the skills and talent needed to earn a family-sustaining wage,” CCRI President Meghan Hughes said. “The program is a sound investment in our state’s economic future and provides our students with the opportunity to succeed.”

“I believe now, more than ever, Rhode Island families need the security of knowing that, no matter their economic situation, their children have a path forward to a quality degree and, with it, a brighter future,” she continued.

During the first two years the program was offered, the state’s college-going rate increased by 8%, which Hughes said proves Rhode Island high school graduates are taking advantage of the scholarship.

The R.I. Promise program costs roughly $7 million per year.