RI Joins The List Of States Providing Free Community College
By Andra Armstrong, Senior Strategist at the College Promise Campaign
This month, Rhode Island joined the rapidly growing list of communities and states to fund a ‘free’ college education beyond high school. Starting this fall, in a new $2.8 million pilot program, recent high school graduates in the Ocean State will be able to complete their education at the Community College of Rhode Island without paying tuition and fees.
All across the country—in rural towns and big cities, in counties and states, local leaders and state officials recognize that a high school education is no longer enough to get a good job and earn a living wage. They know their local regions—and our nation—won’t have a well-trained workforce unless more students complete – at a minimum – two years of education beyond high school.
That’s why so many, like Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), are creating College Promise programs enabling students to complete a community college or technical education covering their college tuition and fees. Throughout the nation, lawmakers in partnership with business, education, and philanthropy recognize the return on their investment in the College Promise.
These leaders understand that it is necessary to make higher education affordable so students are ready for 21st Century jobs, career advancement, and the rewards of their hard work . Nationally, the College Promise movement is catching on as leaders recognize that affordable higher education is necessary for families and our nation’s future prosperity. Just as our founding fathers drove the free high school movement 100 years ago, these leaders are building the roads for a new threshold in education, one that will prepare students for jobs and success in a rapidly changing economy.
Governor Raimondo meets a student at the Community College of Rhode Island. (Photo Courtesy of the Office of Governor Gina Raimondo)
There is no one or perfect way to fund a College Promise program. Some use public funds, some use private donations, and others opt for a mixture of both. But what they all have in common is an understanding that it is necessary to make higher education more affordable for people to earn a living wage and lead productive lives.
“When I was my kids’ age, most jobs in Rhode Island required nothing more than a high school degree. But, for my kids and yours, that’s not the case anymore, “ said Gov. Gina Raimondo when she first proposed the free college plan in her State of the State Address in January. “The reality is that most jobs being created now in Rhode Island will require some degree or certificate beyond a high school diploma,” said Raimondo. “Our job is to ensure that there is opportunity for every Rhode Islander who is willing to work for it. Our job is to ensure that Rhode Islanders are getting the jobs businesses are creating.”Rhode Island now joins the list of 10 other states that have passed versions of free community or technical college legislation or executive orders. Just this year, governors brought New York, Hawaii, Arkansas, Indiana, and Nevada into the free college movement, joining Tennessee, Oregon, Minnesota, Delaware, Kentucky. College Promise opportunities for students are growing rapidly as more programs are being proposed, implemented, and expanded in more than 200 communities and 40 states.
The College Promise Campaign is delighted that Rhode Island has joined the College Promise movement to expand opportunities for students to complete an undergraduate degree or technical certificate without bearing the burden of unmanageable college debt. This new pilot program will be a terrific boon for many Rhode Islanders who never imagined they could afford to go to college. With access to affordable higher education, all hardworking students in Rhode Island can get the community college education and training they need for success in the workforce and in the rest of their lives. A high school education just isn’t enough to advance in the 21st Century.