higher education

  • Who’s overseeing the state’s public schools, colleges and universities? The answer… it’s not clear, and it’s complicated.

The State Senate voted unanimously on Thursday to delay creation of a State Board of Education to replace the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Schools and the Board of Governors for Higher Education. The vote comes after those two boards dissolved on January 1st, leaving a question mark about who is in charge of the state’s K-12 public schools and three institutions of higher education.

The House and Senate are poised to approve a compromise today that would keep student loan rates from rising. Members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation tell RIPR they expect the measure to pass both the House and Senate.

The deal stops interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans from doubling. The current rate of 3.4 percent will increase to 6.8 percent on Sunday if the measure does not go through.

An estimated 40,000 Rhode Island students will face rising loan bills without action this week from Congress. Senate Democrats and Republicans are looking for a way to avoid the increase, but if they fail to reach a compromise, interest rates on subsidized federal Stafford loans will double on July 1st, rising from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

With a vote expected Thursday on the state budget for the fiscal year beginning in July, here’s a look at some highlights for public schools and state colleges and universities.

Elementary and Secondary Education

Ruth Simmons comes to the end of her tenure at Brown. Photo from Brown University.

Outgoing Brown President Ruth Simmons is preparing her final address to the campus community. She’s slated to speak tomorrow at a baccalaureate ceremony as part of Brown’s graduation weekend.

Economics has surpassed the biological sciences as the most popular field at Brown University. Roughly 220 members of the undergraduate class of 2012 will receive economics degrees during commencement exercises this weekend.

Biological sciences are the second most popular degree with 200 concentrators, while international relations comes in a distant third.

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.