OP-ED

A better, bolder state college for all Rhode Islanders

By DR. FRANK D. SANCHEZ
Posted 9/8/21

By DR. FRANK D. SANCHEZ This past June leaders in the General Assembly acknowledged the critical role Rhode Island College (RIC) has in shaping the state's workforce. Thanks to Speaker Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, along with

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OP-ED

A better, bolder state college for all Rhode Islanders

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This past June leaders in the General Assembly acknowledged the critical role Rhode Island College (RIC) has in shaping the state’s workforce. Thanks to Speaker Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, along with their colleagues, the college received an additional $5.9 million in general revenue to address mandatory costs and new investments in full-time faculty. This bold investment will enable the college to renew our commitment to providing more Rhode Islanders with a four-year college degree. We are fulfilling that commitment with the RIC Compact, focusing on access, quality and affordability.

ACCESS: The state’s investment will enable RIC to expand evening, weekend and online programs for current students, but primarily supporting working adults. This is a response to data showing most Rhode Islanders have logistical and financial barriers preventing them from starting or finishing their degree. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reports that approximately 120,000 Rhode Islanders have some college credits but not a degree. Given the state’s demographics, RIC is able to create a more equitable four-year degree option for all Rhode Islanders whether on the Mt. Pleasant campus or online at the kitchen table.

QUALITY: The college is currently examining all its academic programs, with a priority on employability and economic growth for the state. For instance, over the last 18 months, RIC’s Computer Science and Information Systems program used regional labor statistics and feedback from state industry leaders to expand offerings in data analytics, including courses in artificial intelligence, machine learning, data visualization and data mining. Our goal is not just to produce more degrees, but the knowledge and in-demand skills needed for upward mobility.

AFFORDABILITY: Today, college debt in America has exceeded $1.6 trillion, eclipsing the country’s combined credit card debt. RIC has among the most affordable four-year degrees in New England and continues to lead the state in reducing students’ out-of-pocket expenses. By offering one of the lowest tuition rates among our peer schools and providing innovative student supports that offset the costs of things like textbooks and transportation, we are able to ensure a growing number of RIC graduates are debt-free.

RIC is Rhode Island’s college. Ninety percent of our undergraduate students are RI residents and seventy percent of our graduates continue to live and work here. The college is particularly proud to represent the state’s growing diversity, with more than 40 percent of students identifying as people of color and nearly half of undergraduates identifying as first-generation college students.

Our state leaders are carefully listening and acting on the economic needs, changing demographics and workforce opportunities in the Ocean State. Their investment will ensure RIC can continue educating the most economically, culturally and racially diverse cross-section of Rhode Islanders of any four-year institution in the state. RIC is extremely proud of this fact, further inspiring us to prepare our graduates to be highly competitive in an increasingly diverse and changing economy.

Rhode Island College’s motto is “Be Bold.” This call to action has mobilized the entire RIC community as we position Rhode Island’s college as a first-choice institution in the region. Let’s ensure this is the first step of many towards fulfilling the prospect of a better, bolder future for all Rhode Islanders.

 Dr. Frank D. Sánchez is the President of Rhode Island College.

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