EDITORIAL

Making good on the Promise

Posted 6/2/21

By officially signing into law the permanent continuation of the Rhode Island Promise scholarship program that former Gov. Gina Raimondo began back in 2017, lawmakers and current Gov. Dan McKee have done right by the young students of Rhode Island in

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EDITORIAL

Making good on the Promise

Posted

By officially signing into law the permanent continuation of the Rhode Island Promise scholarship program that former Gov. Gina Raimondo began back in 2017, lawmakers and current Gov. Dan McKee have done right by the young students of Rhode Island in helping to ensure the opportunity to begin their higher education careers at the Community College of Rhode Island if they so choose – which is a benefit to the state as a whole.

We are happy that the reactionary unease from the public that accompanied this program back when it was first announced did not ultimately spell its demise. It is only appropriate that a program offering itself as a “promise” would not have a three-year shelf life of eligibility.

Invoking the word “promise” for this program is especially appropriate. At a budgetary cost of around $7 million, the Promise scholarship is a sound investment in the future workforce of Rhode Island – an investment in the “promise” that these bright individuals show, which will ultimately lead to exponentially realized economic benefits down the road due to having a more educated, more highly trained and more readily prepared generation of young adults living and working in Rhode Island.

According to CCRI, 70 percent of jobs created in Rhode Island by 2025 will require at least some version of a college degree. It has long been established by empirical studies and media research pieces from outlets much larger than this newspaper that the times of being able to easily obtain a high-paying job directly out of high school are over – at least for the vast majority of people. More and more, younger generations face a higher bar of entry into the kinds of careers that enable home ownership, the starting of a family and the kind of meaningful participation in the market that fuels our capitalist economy.

So, in our view, granting the opportunity for high school graduates to hit the ground running at CCRI – earning an associates degree or certificate in a field that they are passionate about, without racking up any debt – not only sets them up well for success in their burgeoning professional lives, it enables them to transition seamlessly into finishing their final two years at another of our state universities if they so choose. And although it is true there is no requirement to stay in-state following graduation from CCRI, many students have already done so, and we believe many more will – as it is easily the most cost-efficient and practical means for them to achieve a bachelor’s degree.

Most importantly, data from CCRI shows that the Promise program is working. They have seen the number of straight out of high school enrollees double in three years – and a more than 2.5 times jump for students of color coming out of high school. The requirement that Promise students maintain a 2.5 GPA and stay on track to graduate has certainly been a factor in the university tripling its two-year graduation rate (from 6 percent to 18 percent) and doubling its three-year graduation rate (15 percent to 30 percent). Again, those numbers are reflected at similar or even higher rates for students of color.

Ensuring that Rhode Island has a stable, sizable and highly educated workforce is essential to competing with regional neighbors for the kinds of economically essential industries that have reshaped the landscapes of places like Boston – such as biotechnical research, computer networking and security companies and more traditional white-collar investing, banking and marketing firms.

With all of this considered, we believe the argument could be made – as Raimondo originally intended – for the scope of the promise to be larger, so as to enable more students to access higher education at Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island. We lament that she got such a lukewarm response to her efforts to expand the Promise program to RIC in 2019. Hopefully that discussion can begin again.

Investing in the education of your younger generations is a wise investment, whereas failing to do so can have perilous consequences for many generations to come.

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