Recently elected Chairman of the Democratic Party Tom Perez ’83 P’18 and Gov. Gina Raimondo spoke on the necessity of higher education in creating jobs and opportunity in relation to the Rhode Island Promise Scholarship at Rhode Island College April 6.
The conversation centered on recent efforts to lower education costs, notably Raimondo’s recent proposal to expand the RI Promise program, which would provide two years of free college tuition at the Community College of Rhode Island, the University of Rhode Island and RIC for qualified Rhode Island high school graduates who are enrolled full-time.
“We want Rhode Island to be a place where everyone has a fair shot at education equity and upwards mobility,” Raimondo said.
“What (Raimondo’s) doing is indispensable for the long-term success for Rhode Island and frankly the nation. We have to eliminate the term ‘education mortgage’ from our vocabulary,” Perez told The Herald.
Only four out of every 10 citizens in Rhode Island have an education past high school, Raimondo said. She stressed that the scholarship is open to every student in Rhode Island that meets the qualifications of the program, regardless of socioeconomic status. “I want 10 out of 10 Rhode Islanders to be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow,” Perez said. “Education is the great equalizer,” Perez repeated throughout the event.
“(The scholarship is) about giving all the hard-working people of Rhode Island a degree without a bundle of debt,” Raimondo said.
As the chairman of the Democratic Party, Perez believes the party will continue to make strides towards lowering the price of higher education. “I want to make sure that everyone in this room knows that when you go and get an education, you can come out without a mortgage and with the future in the palms of your hands,” Perez said to the students in attendance.
“When I see (the Trump) administration cut funding for higher education, it makes no sense,” Perez told The Herald.
But investing in higher education is not just a partisan issue, Perez said, pointing to a Republican governor in Tennesee who introduced similar legislation regarding education investments.
“College affordability isn’t just an issue for Democrats — it’s an issue for Democrats and Republicans alike,” Perez told The Herald.
“Education is what Democrats have always fought for. Budgets are moral documents — we want people to know not the rhetoric of the administration but the actions,” Perez said. “It doesn’t ‘make America great’ to cut investments in human capital,” he added.
Simply put, investing in education makes the nation stronger, Perez said.
“This is about equipping Rhode Island for the future,” Raimondo said. “Let’s be the state that isn’t stuck.”
Grassroots organizing is an important method to mobilize both parties toward adapting education reform policy, Perez said.
“We need to be a nation of dreams and a nation of doers,” he added.
The conversation was hosted by the Rhode Island Democratic Party, the Young Democrats of Rhode Island and the College Democrats of Rhode Island. The event was open to the public.