Rhode Island Governor proposes free tuition at state colleges

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WHDH) - Rhode Island has become the second state to propose free tuition at its state colleges.

Under the plan, every Rhode Island resident who graduates high school in-state would be eligible, regardless of income.

To a full house in the Rhodes on Monday, Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo explained her plan. “I’m proposing that every student in Rhode Island receive two free years of college at either URI, CCRI, or Rhode Island College.”

The governor spoke at the annual Martin Luther King Junior Day scholarship breakfast. She said the proposal would get students an associate’s degree for free and would pay for the final two years of a four-year program.

“The problem isn’t starting college,” Raimondo said. “It’s finishing it and not coming out with a boatload of debt.”

“So what do students around the state think about it? I spoke to a current college student that went to Cranston East about it and he says that if the program was around when he was in school, he’d definitely take advantage of it,” Raimondo said.

College student Khari Mitchell said the plan would be crucial for dedicated students who are without the funds to pay for higher education. “If you work hard, and the only thing keeping you from going to school is tuition or you feel like you can’t afford it, this is the opportunity.”

President of the Community College of Rhode Island Meghan Hughes was thrilled to potentially be a part of this groundbreaking initiative.

“What the governor has communicated so clearly is that fifty years ago, a high school diploma was sufficient to get a great job,” Hughes said. “The world has changed, and in order to get that kind of job to access the middle class in virtually every case, you will need a college degree.”

New York Governor Andrew  Cuomo has already announced a similar proposal, but both state’s plans would need to be approved by state lawmakers.

Some other states, like Tennessee, have made their community colleges tuition-free.

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