Currently, I serve as the resident youth with the 990WBOB team. Entering my senior year at the University of Rhode Island, I’m in an almost unique position amongst the staff here, being able to give the college kid perspective, as well as someone who is close enough to the real world to know how to take expenses into account and know free college has its consequences.
On a recent episode of The Rotunda (Listen Live Mondays at 8), I sat down with Cranston Mayor Allan Fung. Like many Republicans Fung, feels that our money is better spent on improving our schools on the k-12 level. I do not agree blindly to something just because of a personal bias, however I do tend to lean to the right.
This is the case again here.
I think we are better off preparing kids for college than making college more affordable for people unprepared. That’s not saying people who cannot afford it are unprepared, but rather is saying we are only as strong as our weakest links. It’s more important to ensure that students are finishing high school in my personal opinion. On the WildSide, former candidate for the Warwick School Board Chadd Huddon said that Warwick needs help. We were informed that testing showed many Warwick High Schoolers aren’t ready for college.
With that said, college isn’t cheap. No where close to it. The University of Rhode Island isn’t as ridiculously priced as private colleges, however, an education is still costly. Making college affordable, enabling more people to attend (who do not qualify for scholarships) could benefit a lot of people.
Governor Raimondo’s plan is to give two free years of education from CCRI to Rhode Island residents. The students have to commit to stay in state. According to GoLocalProv, students need a 2.5 GPA out of high school to qualify.
Considering there is a 2.5 GPA requirement, I understand the plan. This is not just giving everybody free schooling. A student cannot slack off in high school and still qualify for a free education. On paper, a sixty credit education (two full years) equates to a little more than eleven thousand dollars per student. That does add up on a student by student basis.
CCRI’s student body population is only a few hundred shy of the largest state school, which both dwarf that of RIC. Taking those populations into account and knowing that many students have advanced from CCRI to URI and RIC, it can be estimated that about half of the students attending URI public colleges have had some sort of relationship with CCRI.
If that (estimated) half of the student body population all fit the standard of having a 2.5 GPA, they would cost around a quarter of a billion dollars. That does not take into account future students, or the change we would see in freshman and sophomores attending CCRI for the free tuition and then transferring when they could have began their college careers at a four year institution.
There are a few questions that need to be asked. How much money do we have available to pay for this? How do we make people stay in the state, especially if there are better opportunities elsewhere? How will this increase class sizes? How much room do the community colleges have for more students? Will students who did not meet the gpa requirements be challenged too much to succeed with an influx of students who are fit to attend a four year school, or will those students who are fit to attend four year schools not be challenged enough? How many new teachers will be hired?
I think on paper, giving free tuition is a great idea. It’s something that saves people money in theory. But free isn’t free. I think the state will have to pay too much for this one, and it won’t be great for all of the students either. We shouldn’t make people commit to staying in the state if it isn’t in their best interests. Giving free tuition to students is the nice thing to do, however I do not believe it’s the smart decision.
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