R.I. bill aims to help adults finish college degree online

Pilot program, proposed by Rep. McNamara, seeks to improve workforce by bolstering education

Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Rep. Joseph McNamara, D-Warwick and Cranston, proposed legislation March 19 to create a three-year pilot program for Rhode Island adults to complete their college degrees online.

The program will be facilitated through partnerships with Charter Oak State College, a Connecticut public online college, and College Unbound, a Providence-based nonprofit organization that helps adults finish their degrees, according to an April 2 General Assembly press release. The legislation also outlines an evaluation plan through the Rhode Island Partnership Project, a program run by the Rhode Island Office of Higher Education to increase the state’s learning opportunities. Following its evaluation, RIPP will then submit its findings on the success of the pilot program to the General Assembly.

“It’s tremendously exciting that (McNamara) is working to create multiple pathways for R.I. residents to earn degrees,” wrote Adam Bush, the director of curriculum at College Unbound,  in an email to The Herald.

The pilot program is limited to 1,000 participating adults over 21 years old with a high school diploma or its equivalent and a minimum of nine college-level credit hours, according to the bill.

“Many adult Rhode Islanders who have some college credits and who would like to obtain their degree simply run into various life circumstances and challenges in pursuing further education by traditional means,” McNamara said in the press release.

“This is one way to address a very interesting challenge,” said Professor of Education Kenneth Wong, adding that “the workforce quality and training is closely tied to the potential for economic growth in the local community.”

On average, the college graduation rate for four-year colleges in a six-year period is approximately 50 percent in the United States, Wong said.

Along the way, some students find it necessary to begin working in order to afford their tuition, he added.

Though some fields such as education and nursing may require more hands-on learning, other disciplines — including industrial business and management — translate better to an online course, Wong said. Adults who have job experience could have more success in studying certain subject areas like business, because they have already been in the workforce, Wong added.

“I think it’s a new territory,” Wong said of online learning. “We need to make sure that the quality is there.”

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  1. Zachary Cunningham says:

    According to, a general MBA can be obtained for as little as $6k and as high as $120k. If students would do a little research, they would find that it is not nearly as expensive to get a college degree.

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