Is Rhode Island government finally waking up to leveraging state colleges as wellsprings of economic development? RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay sees some hopeful signs on Smith Hill.
After years of malign neglect of Rhode Island’s public colleges and universities, the General Assembly finally appears to be turning a corner. Several elements in the state budget approved last week by the House Finance Committee show that Statehouse politicians are finally getting the message on the iron link between education and creating jobs in the Ocean State.
After too many years of giving short shrift to public higher education in Rhode Island, the General Assembly and state government appear to have finally begun to reverse this short-sighted policy.
In the budget that cleared the House Finance Committee on a 14 to 2 vote Thursday, the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island have won some important initiatives.
One of the most contentious issues in education remains high-stakes testing. In Rhode Island most of the strum and drang revolves around the New England Common Assessment Program Test.
This year, for the first time, R.I. high school seniors will have to pass the NECAP test to get a diploma. But the Rhode Island Department of Education, with little fanfare, on January 3rd issued a waiver policy that has been slowly circulating among education wonks and professionals around the state.
Seventy four undocumented students have enrolled at the state’s public colleges and universities.
They’re taking advantage of a policy the state adopted in 2011.
The controversial policy allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at any of Rhode Island’s schools of higher education. The seventy-four students taking advantage of the policy is about half the number lawmakers predicted. Ana Cano-Morales is the head of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University. She offers several reasons for the lower-than-expected numbers.
The Community College of Rhode Island is joining with the Rhode Island Oral Health Foundation to hold the second “Rhode Island Mission of Mercy.”
Last year the event drew 800 people and an additional 100 were turned away. This year the college will have more than 25 dental chairs, and equipment to provide dental care, such as root canals, teeth cleaning and x-rays. The clinic will be staffed by professional and community volunteers, all the dental work is free. The volunteer dentists will pay their own expenses.
State colleges and universities in Rhode Island can now arm campus police after a vote Thursday night at the State Board of Education. Critics said more guns on campus will not make students safer, but supporters, including University of Rhode Island President David Dooley, said campus police should carry guns to do their jobs more effectively.
Dooley said he believes arming police is logical decision for URI.
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.