Program to expand need-based grants for R.I. students

Students attending college in-state, select number of high-achievers to receive increased financial aid

Contributing Writer
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Gov. Gina Raimondo announced a restructured and expanded need-based grant program for Rhode Island students attending college in-state, according to a Sept. 10 press release.

Dubbed Rhode Island’s Promise, the grant program is intended to eliminate the gap between a student’s financial aid package and the cost of college.

Raimondo cited her father as an example of using college to move into the middle class. He utilized the G.I. bill to become the first person in her family to go to college. “Now more than ever, higher education can be the ladder to the middle class. Rhode Island’s Promise will open the door of opportunity for so many Rhode Islanders,” Raimondo said in the press release.

The new program has a budget of $10.1 million, an increase of $2 million from last year’s $8 million budget, the Providence Journal reported Sept. 10.

The program also aims to provide a smaller number of high achieving students with a more significant grant, thus creating a grant program that is “more efficient and impactful,” said Dan Egan, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island. Private institutions receiving these funds will match whatever they are given by the state, Egan added.

Rhode Island has the fourth highest average student debt in the country, according to the press release. But this figure is more complicated than it seems: The large number of graduate students in the state could account for the relatively high average student debt, Egan said.

Another factor contributing to the high average is that a large portion of the institutions of higher education in the state are private, said Gail Mance-Rios, acting executive director of the Rhode Island Higher Education Assistance Authority.

“With the new program, schools have the flexibility to design their own program based on the unique population of each school,” Mance-Rios said. The only colleges currently receiving funding are the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island, she said.

Private institutions wanting the additional funds made available by this year’s budget increase could receive funds as early as spring 2016, she added.

At Rhode Island College, around 500 students have received scholarships from the program, wrote Nancy Carriuolo, president of Rhode Island College, in an email to the Herald. “I am hoping that more capable students will see Rhode Island College as within their financial grasp thanks to the availability of the scholarship and promotion of its existence,” she wrote.

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