Rhode Island becomes 4th state in US to make community college free

Bowen Xiao
By Bowen Xiao
August 4, 2017US News
Rhode Island becomes 4th state in US to make community college free
Governor of Rhode Island Gina Raimondo speaks onstage at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on October 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Fortune/Time Inc)

Rhode Island just made its community college free.

It now becomes the fourth state in the United States to cut tuition costs from community colleges, following the likes of New York, Oregon, and Tennessee.

On Thursday, Aug. 3, lawmakers approved The Promise Scholarship that will cover tuition costs and fees at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI). The scholarship is offered to new students starting in September 2017, no matter what income students are earning, according to CNN.

The pilot program was approved for four years initially and given $2.8 million for the first year, under the money from the state’s budget.

However, lawmakers rejected a wider proposal from Gov. Gina Raimondo, who wanted two years free at both of Rhode Island’s public four-year colleges, in addition to the community college.

The budget bill was signed by the governor soon after the Senate voted on Thursday. It broke an impasse that lasted one month, CNN reported.

According to the community college’s website students are only deemed eligible for the Promise Scholarship if they are Rhode Island residents and graduated high school the previous spring.

To maintain the scholarship for two years students must maintain at least a 2.5 GPA, enroll full time and earn 30 credits each year.

The Rhode Island Promise lasts for two academic years and covers the fall and spring semesters in each of those years.

For those who use the scholarships, they are also strongly encouraged to live and work in Rhode Island after graduation. But the specifics of this point will be a future discussion by the college. New York has a similar requirement for its free tuition program called the Excelsior Scholarship.

According to the CCRI’s website, “A student who receives the scholarship funds is asked to commit to staying in Rhode Island because we hope that the student will see the value of returning on that investment right here.”

Even though the college acknowledges that 90 percent of its students do stay in the state to raise their families after graduation they want the few who leave to stay. Though college mentions there will be no repercussions if they do leave as of now.

“For those few students that do not [stay], the program does not contain a penalty for leaving the state,” the website reads.

A Facebook post on Aug.4 by CCRI announced the news calling it “groundbreaking.”

“We are so pleased that the groundbreaking Rhode Island Promise program will be moving forward this fall at CCRI. This is exceptionally good news for the future students of our college. 2017 Rhode Island high school graduates can earn a tuition-free degree at CCRI through Rhode Island Promise.”

Rhode Island’s community college expects to see an increase in enrollment for first-time students next year by at least 200 because of the new program. It estimated that that between 1,200 and 1,300 students will receive the scholarship this fall, Fox News reported. 

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