Office of Higher Education


The University of Rhode Island will be offering a mini semester during the January break to help students get caught up on course work.  The semester will run from January 2nd to January 17th. One-hundred and twenty five students signed up during the first two days of enrollment.

Mini semester director John Olerio said students in especially demanding majors find it hard to finish their course work in four years.

Political Analyst Scott MacKay and Education Reporter Elisabeth Harrison discuss leadership problems at the Rhode Island Office Higher Education, after Governor Lincoln Chafee announced he would rescind his pick for Higher Education Commissioner. The candidate, attorney Eva-Marie Mancuso, raised ethics questions because she chairs the State Board of Education, the same board that would have to vote on her nomination.

  Additional reporting for this story by Ian Donnis.

A vote Monday at the State Board of Education may create a leadership void at a key moment for opponents of a new test-based high school graduation requirement.

Those opponents have lined up some 20 people from the state’s higher education community to testify at Monday’s meeting, but they may be overshadowed by a vote to turn State Education Board Chair Eva-Marie Mancuso into the state’s Interim Commissioner of Higher Education. Governor Lincoln Chafee announced Mancuso as his choice for the post on Friday.

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.”

The budget scheduled for a vote today in the Rhode Island House of Representatives includes $6 million in additional funding for public colleges and universities, but it would also make a significant reduction at the Office of Higher Education.

The spending plan cuts $1 million from OHE's budget, roughly 43 percent of the office's total funding. The budget endorsed by the House Finance Committee provides $1.2 million for OHE.

The new budget proposal from Governor Lincoln Chafee is a complex document, so here are a few highlights for schools and colleges.

There's a slight increase in this budget proposal for public colleges and universities. Oddly, officials disagree about the exact amount of the increase. The governor’s office first reported $8 million, but higher education officials say it’s closer to $6 million. The Office of Higher Education says it is grateful for any increase, after years of decreases under former Governor Don Carcieri.

  • Sawyer probe continues

State and federal law enforcement agencies are checking the books at the Sawyer School for criminal activity following its abrupt closure just after Christmas. State education officials have recovered student records from the school and are planning to hold an event at CCRI next week to provide transcripts and counseling for students wondering how to proceed with their degrees.

The Sawyer School in Providence
Elisabeth Harrison

(PROVIDENCE, RI) Help is on the way for the more than 300 students displaced by the recent closure of the Sawyer vocational school in Providence. 

The state Office of Higher Education will hold a day-long meeting next week for students displaced by the closure of the Sawyer School in Providence. More than 300 students in Rhode Island and another 1,200 in Connecticut were shocked to see the school close abruptly just after Christmas.

The Sawyer School was apparently bleeding federal aid prior to its abrupt closure on New Year's Day. The Federal Department of Education says the for-profit school had gone from nearly $7.5 million in federal tuition dollars for the 2011-2012 academic year down to $2 million this year.

What happened? Well, one answer is declining enrollment. Sawyer reported 796 students in Rhode Island in the fall of 2011, but only 302 students when it shut down earlier this month.

The FBI has joined the investigation of the now-defunct Sawyer School, a for-profit technical college that closed its doors on the first of the year.

State police say they're seeking to determine whether there was any criminal wrongdoing, or whether this is simply a case of a business going under.

Either way, Sawyer's closure left roughly 300 Rhode Island students and 1,200 students in Connecticut with partially completed certificates to become medical office assistants and other office administrators.

Joshua Miller had three months left to graduate
Catherine Welch

(PROVIDENCE, RI) The Rhode Island Office of Higher Education says it’s working to secure the records of some 1,500 students left in the lurch when a career training school abruptly closed down.

Spokesman for the Office of Higher Education, Mike Trainor, says over the weekend the state will secure the academic and financial records of the 302 Rhode Island students and 1,200 Connecticut students. He says all of the school’s records, going back to 1964, are on paper so it will take a while to sort everything out.