What They’re Saying: Rhode Island’s Promise

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Governor Gina M. Raimondo testified last night at the Rhode Island House of Representatives Committee on Finance hearing on Article 3 of her FY 2018 budget.

«This proposal isn’t about giving something away for free, it’s about guaranteeing access to opportunity and job training for every Rhode Islander,» Raimondo said. «The Rhode Island’s Promise scholarship will provide relief to middle class families who are up at night worried about how they’ll pay their kids’ college tuition. And it will benefit every Rhode Islander.»

Dozens of Rhode Islanders and national experts testified in support of the Governor’s proposal. Here’s a look at what they said:
«Obtaining a college degree is key to securing a bright future. That’s why Governor Gina Raimondo’s Rhode Island’s Promise Scholarship is such a potential game changer. Rhode Island’s Promise would make it possible for every student in Rhode Island to continue their education beyond high school… This investment now will surely pay dividends for our future. Our students will graduate with less debt, our public schools will see their enrollments and on-time graduation rates increase, our businesses will have the college educated workers they need, and our State will continue to grow and prosper.»
– Barbara S. Cottam, Rhode Island Board of Education Chair

«The power of a ‘Promise’ can change the economic future of a state… That is why it is so important for Rhode Island to make a Promise to its students of two years of free college tuition so they can get the degree or certificate they need to start on their own personal economic journey. It will allow them to focus in high school on getting the grades necessary to get into college and not be as burdened with student debt when they do. More importantly, Governor Raimondo’s Rhode Island’s Promise proposal will set the state on a path to greater economic prosperity for every resident. Begin with a Promise and watch the economic benefits flow.»
– Morley Winograd, Campaign for Free College Tuition President and CEO

«Governor Gina Raimondo was right to propose making two years of college free at the state’s public colleges and universities. She recognizes that middle-class families are paying the price for higher education too, and that rather than continuing to punish them for being too ‘rich’ to afford college yet too poor to qualify for need-based aid, Rhode Island needs a more inclusive approach. Strengthening the ability of those families to afford college, regardless of their race/ethnicity, is critical to the future of the public higher education sector in the state, and the lower-income and minority families who depend on it.»
– Sara Goldrick-Rab, Temple University Professor of Higher Education Policy & Sociology

«The program is not just about Rhode Island students and their families- it is also about the state’s economy and its businesses. Supporting a strong pipeline of skilled, local workers has long been a priority for SENEDIA’s members. The work we do to develop and implement the technology that keeps our nation safe can only be done with the help of an educated labor pool. Our entire state will reap the benefits of this proposal.»
– Molly Donohue Magee, Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance (SENEDIA) Executive Director

«The right to a public-school education that all Rhode Island students enjoy was established in a time when one could get a job earning fair pay with a high school diploma. That’s no longer the case. But we still owe every student an opportunity to get the education he or she needs to compete in the modern job market. Any investment we make to help students graduate on time and with less debt will help us hire more Rhode Islanders for the jobs we’re creating at Gilbane – and that’s just good business. If this proposal became law, it would help companies like ours find educated Rhode Islanders who want nothing more than the opportunity to succeed.»
– John D. Sinnott, Gilbane Building Company RI Business Unit Vice President

«When our family moved here from San Francisco nine years ago, it became clear to us that Rhode Island was a state with significant promise and significant challenges. My husband and I have fallen in love with the state but finding opportunities to work as two professionals has required lots of creativity and some sacrifices. Rhode Island simply doesn’t have enough work opportunities for its residents. We need to upgrade the skills of the labor force if we want to attract employers to the state and ensure its long term economic health. A high school degree is just not sufficient anymore. We need bold policies that will turn the trajectory of our state around. The new proposal for free college is exactly the kind of bold policy we need in Rhode Island.»
– Sandra R. Smith, Providence Resident

«A college education and degree have been a gateway to a better job and quality of life for generations. This critical stepping-stone is elusive for many Rhode Islanders for many reasons, cost being a major one… Every young person will not attend college, but every Rhode Islander deserves the choice and opportunity. From a policy perspective RI must educate and train talent in order to compete. Our businesses need confidence that capable young people will be prepared to join their companies. Rhode Island’s Promise educates young people and deepens their commitment to Rhode Island, increasing the likelihood that they will stay here to work, raise families and contribute. I urge you to approve this bold proposal.»
– Mary Jo Kaplan, Kaplan Consulting

«Our leaders are working hard to grow Rhode Island’s economy and attract companies that will provide our citizens with the jobs they need in industries that will grow through the next three to five decades. These jobs will require an associate’s degree or higher and we must make sure our young people are prepared to take advantage of those opportunities. Rhode Island’s Promise gives our youth a chance to be part of the new economy by giving tl1em the credentials and knowledge they need to compete for the best Jobs. Let’s invest in ourselves and our kids!»
– Vanessa Toledo Vickers, Richmond Resident

«In some cases, the financial support Rhode Island’s Promise would provide could be the only way many students would consider applying to college for which might otherwise be an unattainable goal of earning a college diploma. The funding afforded to the colleges will help ensure students’ success by providing increased advising services, transition planning, and course options, Working in concert, these components will increase the likelihood of student enrollment and success. In turn, we will have far more students earning college degrees positioning them for the jobs available. I urge the thoughtful consideration of Budget Article 3 – Rhode Island’s Promise, as I am confident this support will provide necessary opportunities for the students of Rhode Island.»
– Karen A. Tarasevich, West Warwick Superintendent of Schools

«Rhode Island is not alone in considering free college to support students and spur economic growth. States like Tennessee, Michigan, and Oregon have enacted non-partisan efforts to encourage increased participation rates, graduation rates and the lowering of student debt. However, the wisdom of Governor Raimondo’s plan is that it is more comprehensive, more inclusive and more focused on overall economic wellbeing. This is an opportunity not only for Rhode Island to be the first in the nation with a comprehensive plan but also to build an unprecedented economic engine that will positively impact the entire state for generations to come… I request that you and the House Finance Committee fully support the Governor’s Rhode Island’s Promise plan in its entirety. »
– Roy M. Seigsinger, Jr., Ph.D., Westerly Superintendent of Schools

«As the former Executive VP for Finance and Administration at Brown University and as a current member of the 195 Commission, I am well aware of the challenges and frustrations that employers are having finding qualified/skilled workers in Rhode Island. I am also convinced that companies are looking for places in which to locate and/or grow where they will have reliable access to skilled workers. At the same time, I have met so many willing, hopeful young people who are simply unable to pay for the education they know they need to have good work and life opportunities. It is painful and simply leads to a cyclical downward slide…both for the individuals and for the State. I encourage you to do the right thing for those Rhode Island residents seeking a better future and for the State’s economy by supporting this proposal.»
– Elizabeth C. Huidekoper

«College is no longer affordable for many Rhode Island families. We have an opportunity to show our citizens that RI understands the value of improving access to education. I have been fortunate to graduate from college and my children have also been privileged to receive college educations. I hope to be a citizen of the first state to demonstrate our collective commitment to broadening access to the most valuable resource we can offer – knowledge and education.»
– Bari A. Harlam

«This is a policy matter with far reaching impacts beyond higher education alone. We believe Promise Scholarships will effectuate positive outcomes at the K-12 level. Passage of the budget article will put a college education within reach for many Rhode Island families who would not have this opportunity otherwise. Free tuition for a two-year period, included in this budget, will encourage more students to prepare for a college degree as well… We encourage you and members of your committee to give this worthwhile proposal every consideration.»
– Bill Fischer, Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now External Affairs Director

«When I graduated in 2008, I had about $30,000 of student loan debt; it accumulated the most in the final two years of my undergraduate studies, thanks to increased interest rates. Over the last nine years, I’ve paid over $20,000 towards this debt. That’s tens of thousands of dollars that went to Sallie Mae rather than the state of Rhode Island. That’s tens of thousands of dollars I would have spent buying my own home in my home state. My student loan debt prevented and continues to prevent my dream of being a Rhode Island homeowner… With great respect, I urge the House Finance Committee to seize this opportunity to improve our state. Please support Article 3, and give it your full recommendation for passage. Investing in education, investing in our state’s young people, is always the right and responsible thing to do.»
– Kristina Contreras Fox, Young Democrats of America Vice President