I live in Rhode Island. It’s no secret that it’s the smallest state. The population isn’t much bigger at around a million people. Compared to Massachusetts and California where I’ve lived before, not much happens here.
Last night the local news mentioned that Rhode Island would be eligible for free tuition at all of its state schools. The tuition is regardless of family’s income level. The student, for the most part, has to be stay in good standing and be on track to graduate on time with the school.
One more thing… only two years of college would be covered. If a student wants to pursue an associate’s degree at CCRI, tuition is straight-up free. If the student is going to a 4-year school like University of Rhode Island, he/she would get the 3rd and 4th years tuition-free. The idea is to make sure students have some “skin in the game.”
There’s an official page about Rhode Island’s Promise Program with all the details if you are interested. It may be easier to read this news report of some common questions.
This is potentially BIG news for us. While I jokingly like to say that Harvard and Stanford are “safety schools” for our boys, state college may end being a great option for them. It’s perhaps possible to combine it with my wife’s GI bill that gives 4 years of free tuition. Since that can be divided between both boys, it would cover their first two years.
The end result would be completely free bachelor degrees for our two boys. One of our biggest expenses would disappear.
It’s another reminder that college planning is impossible.
Rhode Island Promise Program Isn’t Without Controversy
From my reading Rhode Island’s Promise program is extremely likely to pass as it has strong government support.
I was following some of the Facebook chatter and people had very strong opinions against the plan.
Most viewed it as a hand-out funded by taxpayers. I would ask that everyone read this article on subsidies. I think it would be hard to find someone who hasn’t taken advantage of a hand-outs/subsidies.
Still, those people aren’t wrong, taxpayers would pay for this plan just like they pay for many, many things. Governor Gina Raimondo makes the point that the $30 million estimated cost is a drop in the bucket for the state’s $9 billion budget. If you think about it, it’s Clayton Kershaw’s salary for throwing a baseball each year. It is an estimated $30 for each person in Rhode Island a year.
Other people simply didn’t think it was a fair plan. They were upset that they had to pay their own way. I can understand this, but at the same time, things change. My first mortgage was nearly 6% and people in recent years got them around 3%. I’d caution these envious people to try to look at it as a change for the better.
Still more point out that it isn’t limited to people of low-income. If your family makes $200,000 a year, you can still get the program. I don’t have an answer as to why they wouldn’t limit it to people of economic need. Perhaps because it’s a drop in the budget, it isn’t worth it to have some left behind or create a complex phasing schedule.
Why Rhode Island Promise Program Is Great
Did you read the part above about my boys getting free bachelor degrees? Okay, seriously here are a few good things:
- A College Degree is Necessary Nowadays
It used to be that a high-school degree was the norm and a college degree got you into the management positions. Nowadays, college degrees are much more common. It seems that a Master’s or higher is now needed to separate you from the pack of job applicants. We paid for the high school degree in the past for students to be competitive, doesn’t it make sense to pay for college now?
- Students May Graduate on Time
Rhode Island has a bit of an education problem on its hands. Only 14% of students graduate from Rhode Island College on time. University of Rhode Island is at 49%. Since this program pushes students to be on-schedule with graduating on time, it is estimated it could help.
- College Debt Suffocates Graduates
I previously wrote that college tuition seems to be in a bubble. Since a college degree is necessary, colleges can continue to raise prices and tell the students to just get more loans.
High student loans limit the ability of graduates to buy houses and cars, go out dinner and buy other things that help our economy.
- Draws and Keeps People in Rhode Island
One of the things mentioned is that Rhode Island is heavily courting General Electric to have its headquarters here. It’s probably not going to be a key consideration for such a big company. However, a smaller company might find it easier to move their business to a state where their employees have the potential of some free tuition for their family.
- Education Benefits Everyone
I was chatting with a friend about it on Facebook last night and he had a great thought, “I’m a fan of spending on education. A well-educated society benefits everyone.”
He pointed out that the people with degrees through this program may be less of a burden on welfare and other subsidies. I’m not a scholar on crime rates, but it took me 30 seconds to find this study, about how education reduces crime. Obviously crime costs taxpayer money in police, fire, and hospital resources.
I think it’s easy to see where I fall on the topic. Obviously, I’m quite biased on this particular topic because it greatly impacts me. Where would you stand if such a program were implemented in your state?
Great post and great news for your kids!
I’m probably not the best resource for an opinion on this subject since I went to school for free, but I agree that there is a correlation to crime and underfunded/uneducated areas of our country. This makes perfect sense considering you need an education to get a successful position (in most cases), and without one people are left with much more limited (and often dire) situations.
I also feel money spent on education is a necessity because of the impacts it has on society. My father-in-law has a wonderful expression he likes to use, “I want to be the dumbest person in the room, that way I know I have good people by my side.” within the right context of course. He is no dummy as he has run his own business for 30+ years, which helps to make the previous statement more impactful.
I really like the way Rhode Island is choosing to allocate the money as well. They are giving everyone a shot, but they are also saying they won’t tolerate people screwing around. California is much more lax when it comes to this and gives a lot of money to people that simply coast by, or worse yet, continue to change majors and sit in school unconditionally. I have a friend with a 3.5 GPA and over 200 units and no degree while still reaping benefits. That is just as unacceptable as choosing to not take education seriously.
Lazy Man says
Geoff, I love that quote! I might borrow it sometime.