Tuition Free? Not for me. Not yet.

Lucille DiNaro – Business Manager

Two years of undergraduate studies, nearly tuition free. I can hardly imagine a reality in which this is possible. Should the Rhode Island Promise Scholarship be extended to Rhode Island College, as was suggested in Governor Gina Raimondo’s State of the Address on Jan. 15, the final two years of a four year degree at RIC may be covered by the state.

I have a sister who is in her sophomore year of high school. For my family, the possibility of achieving a Bachelor’s degree at half the cost is life changing. My mom has to bear the burden of supporting three children through college, and I have witnessed firsthand the financial and emotional toll it has taken on her. I would do anything to alleviate her stress, and I’m sure that my experience is a shared one. If the Promise Scholarship is extended to RIC, Rhode Islanders from every demographic will likely breathe an enormous sigh of relief.

Despite this, I am still wary of the Promise Scholarship. I, like any other loved one, wish to see my family and friends enabled to succeed. While the Promise Scholarship may achieve this at surface level, the implications of the scholarship and the means through which it will be carried out are a little too unpredictable for my liking.

Governor Raimondo stated that an extension of the scholarship is but “a few million dollars in a $10 billion budget.” These numbers are absolutely correct, but this is still millions of dollars that need to be allocated to our higher education budget. It’s quite easy to rationalize millions of dollars in spending when the Governor has framed it this way. However, when it comes time for scholarships to be dispersed, who is providing the dollars necessary to fund the scholarship? It feels very irresponsible to pass a legislative initiative with no real funding.

My mom has spent her life working hard to ensure that my sisters and I will have opportunities she never had access to. To this extent, I fear that the Promise Scholarship is severely limiting. To require that scholarship recipients seek employment in the state in return for tuition dollars is almost unreasonable. If you don’t understand why I see this as a problem, come back to me when you graduate and all of your peers are competing for the same positions you are.

I absolutely admire the students in my department. They are all passionate, engaged learners and have become great friends of mine; I want nothing more than for them to succeed. You can understand why I really, really don’t want to see them in the lobby at my next interview.

By the time my sister graduates, I hope that the opportunities available to her reflect the degree she worked for, not just the vacant positions Rhode Island has available. Unless the state of Rhode Island can promise students a job climate capable of supporting every scholarship recipient, I can’t say that I am comfortable in promising Rhode Island my perpetual employment.

As a loyal Rhode Islander, I would love to witness the success of this program. Our residents deserve  a platform to success, and Rhode Island deserves hard-working professionals to develop our economy and give back to the beautiful state that made us who we are.

The statement that RIC will offer the most affordable four-year degree in America is a great thing to advertise on a website. But will the most affordable four-year degree program truly enable the most successful graduates, or the least indebted graduates? I guess the debate lies in one’s values.