Questions Surround Office of Higher Education

Jul 12, 2013

The State Board of Education met Thursday to discuss the future of the Office of Higher Education, which is slated to stop receiving state funding in July of 2014. Lawmakers dealt the department an early blow in the new budget, cutting funding by roughly 40 percent. Education Board Chair Eva-Marie Mancuso says she was disappointed by the decision.

“I was surprised,” Mancuso said. “I was not happy because it’s premature in my mind. They gave us until next July to in fact meet that goal, and so it’s going to be challenging.”

Mancuso says she believes the Office of Higher Education still has an important role to play in overseeing public and for-profit colleges in Rhode Island. She adds she will be urging state lawmakers to re-think the decision not to fund the department.

One major question is how a full-time commissioner of higher education would function without a designated staff. Mancuso says she sees a problem with putting two commissioners at the helm of a single State Department of Education.

"We all know you can’t have two bosses with one staff. It just doesn’t make any sense," Mancuso said.  "What will the priorities be, how will the day-to-day work be done?"

Mancuso says her hope is that lawmakers will see the value of the Office of Higher Education, once the board submits its final plan for the office's future.