Governor Dan McKee, joined by Lt. Governor Sabina Matos, House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, Commissioner on Postsecondary Education Shannon Gilkey Ed.D., and Community College of Rhode Island President Meghan Hughes on Friday signed into law legislation (2021-H 5224A2021-S 0079A) which makes the Rhode Island Promise program permanent.

The bill-signing took place at CCRI’s Knight Campus. David Mota, a CCRI graduate who benefitted from Rhode Island Promise, shared his story about what the program meant to him.

“Signing this bill into law marks a significant investment in affordable, accessible higher education for Rhode Island students,” said Governor Dan McKee in a statement. “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. I thank Speaker Shekarchi and Senate President Ruggerio for championing this bill and making it a priority this legislative session.”

The program, which had been set to expire with the high school graduating class of 2021, provides up to two years of free tuition for eligible graduating high school seniors who begin classes at CCRI the following fall. To benefit from the scholarship, students must be full-time students who qualify for in-state tuition, and they must maintain at least a 2.5 GPA and remain on track to graduate from CCRI on time.

“I want to express my gratitude to Speaker Shekarchi and Senate President Ruggerio for their leadership,” said Lt. Governor Sabina Matos. “The College Promise program allows an opportunity for our state’s residents to gain access to a quality education and to further their goals. I’m glad to see this program will continue to benefit future generations of learners.”

“The Promise program is an excellent example of how we can prioritize affordable college options for all Rhode Islanders. 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,” said House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), bill sponsor.

“Rhode Island, the nation and the world are increasingly knowledge economies. Higher education is more necessary than ever before, and it has to be available and affordable for all Rhode Islanders. Rhode Island Promise has proven itself effective, significantly improving two-year graduation rates for students. Removing barriers to higher education, particularly its high cost, supports families, helps Rhode Islanders land better jobs, makes our workforce more attractive to employers and strengthens our economy. Rhode Island Promise is a great program that has proven itself effective, and we strongly support making it a permanent resource for students,” said Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), bill sponsor.

“On behalf of the faculty, staff and Rhode Island Promise students, we are incredibly grateful to Governor McKee, Speaker Shekarchi, Senate President Ruggerio, and the members of the House and Senate for making the Rhode Island Promise Scholarship program permanent, and with it, access to higher education a reality for thousands of Rhode Island families,” said CCRI President Meghan Hughes.

“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. 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.”

During the first two years of the Rhode Island Promise Program, between 2016 and 2018, the college-going rate increased 8 percentage points, from 59 percent to 67 percent. That data demonstrates that more Rhode Island high school graduates are taking advantage of the scholarship and are going to college.

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Ryan M. Belmore

Ryan M. Belmore is the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers. Send questions, tips, and story ideas to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.