The Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) has noticed a significant increase in student enrollment thanks to the Rhode Island Promise program that went into effect this past academic year. The program offers two years of free tuition to students who attend CCRI full-time, are recent high school graduates, and maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5.
According to Sara Enright, CCRI’s Vice President of Student Affairs, 1,577 first-time students enrolled full time in Fall 2017. 83% of them registered for Spring 2018. The caveat is that only 231 of those students are on track to finish their degree in two years. That comes in at 15% of the incoming students; however, according to Enright, a maximum of 5% of first-time students have historically finished their degree in two years. The program was launched four weeks before the start of Fall 2017, so given that narrow amount of time, these numbers are promising.
There has been some discussion about the standards for this program being too high because of student’s lack of skills coming out of K-12. However, there are no immediate plans to change the requirements of the program. That discussion of lowering standards is something that should be watched in the coming years.
Originally, Rhode Island Promise was going to extend this offer to University of Rhode Island (URI) and Rhode Island College (RIC); however, the offer was tabled indefinitely. RIC has noticed a decrease in full-time enrollment of 272 students from Fall 2016 to Fall 2017. As a side note, RIC has also been reporting a steady decline in enrollment since 2012, so it is difficult to say for sure that Rhode Island Promise has played a direct role in the steeper decline indicated. RIC’s Student Government Association is blaming the program, but Governor Gina Raimondo finds flaws in their reasoning. It is noteworthy, as Raimondo suggests, that a number of CCRI graduates transfer to RIC, so the college may see these Rhode Island Promise students at a later date, which would offset some of the loss of enrollment at this time.
Overall, Rhode Island Promise seems to have had a good first year. The retention rate from Fall 2017 to Fall 2018 from this cohort will help us to see if CCRI is able to retain these students for the long term.