The roadblocks to a college degree: a four-part series

May 21, 2012

Thousands of college and university students received degrees across the state this weekend, but across the state, nearly half of Rhode Island residents do not have a bachelor’s degree. Business analysts often cite this statistic as one of the factors behind Rhode Island’s slow economic recovery.

To find out what’s behind the number, I met four Rhode Islanders who started college but never finished their degrees. They explained what got in the way of college, and what their lives have been like since leaving school.

Part I: The athlete

Kashief Montgomery with his trainer

Kashief Montgomery, started out as a Central Falls High School football star with a promising future. He got a full scholarship to Dean College in Massachusetts and became the first person in his family to go to college. Then, after just one year, Montgomery left school and his NFL dreams to help care for his first child. Today, he’s is trying desperately to revive his hopes of a career in professional football.

Part II: The student

Financial concerns loom large for many students

Melinda Morales hopes to become the first person in her family to graduate from college.

today, as the cost of a diploma continues to rise. For Melinda Morales, a sophomore at the University of Rhode Island, a shockingly small amount of money nearly forced her to drop out earlier this year. Morales describes the anxiety she lives with on a daily basis, wondering whether she’ll be able to stay at URI and realize her dream of becoming a doctor.

Tinamarie Turano outside her home in Westerly.

Part III: The restaurant worker

While the cost of a college degree may deter some students from completing their degrees,

consider the cost of not having a degree at all. In an employer’s market, many out-of-work Rhode Islanders are finding that a diploma is almost a necessity.

That’s why Tinamarie Turano of Westerly is hoping for a second chance at the Community College of Rhode

Turano’s house is on the market because she can no longer afford the mortgage.

Island. She’s  looking to break the cycle of seasonal restaurant jobs and unemployment some 20 years after leaving the classroom.

Representative Michael Chippendale makes a phone call from the House Minority Office on behalf of a constituent.

Part IV: The state lawmaker

There are exceptions to every rule, and State Representative Michael Chippendale (R, Foster) is one of them. He found success as an entrepreneur with no college diploma, and when health problems and the recession ended his business career, he won election to the State House.

Chippendale says hard work got him where he is today, but he wouldn’t advise his children to follow the same path.