URI Students Have More Debt, Raimondo’s Free College Proposal is Targeted to RIC Only

Thursday, January 17, 2019


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Governor Gina Raimondo

During her campaign for re-election for Governor, Gina Raimondo repeatedly stated that one of her top second-term priorities was to expand her Rhode Island Promise “free college” tuition initiative to all Rhode Islanders attending the University of Rhode Island (URI) and Rhode Island College (RIC).

However, when Raimondo announced in her state of the State of the State on Tuesday that she was proposing the free college program would be extended, it was only to those students attending RIC and not those attending URI.

Data shows that 70 percent of URI students have debt versus 67 percent for RIC students -- and the debt for URI students is higher than RIC students.

The extension of the RI Promise program to include RIC students is a major extension of the controversial tuition-free initiative that has had mixed results for Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) students.

RI Students, Regardless of School, Carry Big Debt

Overall, Rhode Islanders attending college have the second highest debt in America at $35,371 and that is up 15 percent over two years ago.

Also alarming is that 64 percent of all Rhode Island residents who are college students have debt — again one of the highest percentages in the country. Both the debt and the increase are by far the highest in New England.

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RI Higher Edu officials L-R: Commissioner Brenda Dann Messier, RIC President Sanchez, URI President Dooley, and CCRI President Hughes

RIC Only

“Too many students start at RIC, but can't finish because they can't juggle a full course load and two or three jobs to cover tuition. The number one reason students drop out is cost. Most RIC graduates stay in Rhode Island,” Raimondo said in her State of the State.

“They're our teachers, our nurses, our IT technicians that keep our economy going,” said Raimondo. "This small but smart investment -- a few million dollars in a $10 billion budget -- will change lives, strengthen our economy and help us fulfill our obligation to ensure that every Rhode Islander can get a good job. If we do this, Rhode Island College will arguably offer the most affordable four-year degree in America. Let's lead the way."

RIC President Frank Sanchez crowed about the proposal, “Our leaders have sent a clear message that higher education is a top priority and Rhode Island College is essential in driving the state’s future,” he said. “If approved, the expansion of Rhode Island Promise will reinforce our status as a first-choice institution for Rhode Islanders seeking to advance themselves through higher education”

“On behalf of the entire Rhode Island College community, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Governor Raimondo for her leadership on this issue, and to encourage the General Assembly to make this Promise come true for Rhode Island’s students,” Sanchez added.

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Faculty at CCRI have voted no confidence in Hughes

CCRI, Most Students Failed to Achieve Minimum Standards

Data secured by GoLocal through an Access to Public Records Act request unveiled that most students in the program failed to meet the minimum standard to receive free tuition in their second year.  

“There were 722 students who received state funding through the Rhode Island Promise Scholarship program in the fall 2017 Rhode Island Promise cohort. Of those 722 students, 323 hit the required 30 or more credits and 2.5 or higher GPA mark by the end of their first year,” reported CCRI to GoLocal.

Less than 45 percent of the students met the minimum standards of 30 credits and the 2.5 GPA.

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Debt at Others RI Colleges and Universities Is An Even a Bigger Problem

According to data from LendEDU which compiles an annual Student Loan Debt by School by State Report, student loan debt in the U.S. continues to be a critical financial issue in the United States. The total outstanding student loan debt now stands at to $1.52 trillion, making it the second largest form of consumer debt behind only mortgages.

In terms of individual student debt, the average borrower from the Class of 2017 graduated with $28,288, an increase from $27,975 that the average Class of 2016 borrower was on the hook for.

Students attending other Rhode Island colleges are saddled with significant debt. Of over 1,000 schools LendEDU analyzed:

Bryant University students have the 8th highest debt in America at $52,949

Roger Williams University ranks 31st at $44,225

Providence College ranks 63rd at $41,383

Brown University students rank 115th with an average loan debt of $25,471

RIC debt is $25,791 and URI is $33,335.


Related Slideshow: CCRI Promise Report March 2018


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