Neumont University, a for-profit college that specializes in computer science, is looking to build a campus in Providence. Since Rhode Island currently does not allow for-profit institutions to grant bachelors or masters degrees, the college would require exemption from state law.
Neumont University, located near Salt Lake City, U.T., wants to combat the shortage of trained computer scientists facing Providence employers like GTECH and FM Global by opening its doors in Providence, said Stacy Hughes, communication manager for the university. Neumont has existing industry relations with GTECH and FM Global, so Providence is a "natural fit" for a new campus, she added.
Ned Levine, president of Neumont University, is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. He said he wants to expand to Providence because of the many educational institutions in the state and the demand for Neumont graduates from local businesses. The university is looking for a location in Providence but has not yet found a specific site, Levine said.
But there is local opposition to Neumont's move. For-profit universities are held to a different standard than non-profit institutions of higher education, said Daniel Egan, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities Rhode Island. While nonprofits are accredited by states, for-profit universities are accredited by the federal government, a process Egan said is not as highly reputed.
Rhode Island universities already produce significantly more computer science graduates than the estimated 300 that would come from Neumont, Egan said — and there are few entry-level positions available at big technology firms.
Advancing Rhode Island's current education system should be the state's priority, rather than bringing in a sector that has attracted controversy for leaving students with high debt and no degree, Egan said.
Levine said he has not yet faced opposition in his visits. "As in anything, there are people who see the world differently, in a competitive sense," he said, but he added that no one has specifically asked Neumont not to locate in the city.
If bills introduced by House Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello, D-Cranston, and Sen. Hanna Gallo, D-Cranston, are approved by the Rhode Island General Assembly, Neumont expects to begin enrollment Oct. 2013, Hughes said. The legislation is currently under review by the House Committee on Health, Education, and Welfare and the Senate Education Committee.