The state Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to raise tuition at Rhode Island’s three public colleges and universities. The increases would be small, but they will still have an impact on students and their families, and on state efforts to increase the number of college graduates.
At a time when many students already struggle to pay for higher education, tuition hikes understandably cause concern. But some students are surprisingly open to the state's proposal to raise tuition.
Walking out of a class at the Community College of Rhode Island's DownCity campus, Marie Barron worries about where she will find the money for an extra $300 a year to cover tuition.
“I just found out about the raising of the students' tuition and I feel like it's not fair," said Barron, who just returned to school after taking a break.
In addition to her classes, Barron has other expenses to think about, like rent and groceries.
"We already have enough that we have to pay for," said Barron. "Personally, I get financial aid, meaning I could probably get half of the financial aid. And then they would probably have to sit down and tell me I have to come up with the rest of it out of my own pocket.”
State education officials say financial aid will increase for the next academic year, when the tuition changes take effect. The maximum award for federal aid like Pell Grants is also slated to increase. But students will have to work with financial aid officers to figure out how the tuition increase affects them.
At the University of Rhode Island, tuition for local residents will rise by about $900 a year, for a total of more than $26,000 if you also pay for room and board. First-year student Nusrat Islam, a biotechnology major, says her program costs even more than the average major.
“Since I do have a lot of aid I can actually handle paying for it now," said Islam. "It might be a bit of a hassle in like, the future if I decide to take more classes or something. But at the end of the day I'm just happy that it's not way more than $900.”
Another URI student, Matt Beard, is majoring in communications. He and most of his friends are just learning of the tuition increase.
“I had no idea about the tuition hike, but I think $900 is reasonable if they really need the money. I don't think it's that big of a deal,” said Beard.
Education officials say they do need the money. That’s partly because state colleges have kept tuition flat in four of the last five years. It’s also because of rising personnel costs, according to the state Commissioner of Higher Education.
But for students like Allie Rivera, any increase adds up.
“I’m not too happy about it because an extra $1,000 a year at the end of my time would be an extra $3,000 to my loans, which is a lot of money.”
Rivera spent the last three years chipping away at her undergraduate degree, and she expects to take another three years to earn her diploma.
Proposed tuition at each state institution for 2017-18
University of Rhode Island
- In-state: $13,792 (+908)
- Out-of-state: $30,042 (+1,168)
Rhode Island College
- In-state: $8,776 (+$570)
- Out-of-state: $21,289 (+$1,422)
Community College of Rhode Island
- In-state: $4,564 (+$299)
- Out-of-state: $12,156 (+$660)