Rally for free college

Students welcome governor's tuition-free proposal

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Tuesday morning, Raimondo held an old-fashioned- rally in the Johnston High School auditorium to drum up support for Rhode Island’s Promise, a proposal that would guarantee graduating seniors two free years of college, fees and tuition, that met with roaring approval from members of the Class of 2017.  The governor, was introduced by JHS Senior Vincent Florio, whom she congratulated on his acceptance to URI.

“When I was your age, most jobs here required nothing more than a high school degree,” Raimondo began after the JHS band played its introductory march and the Panthers’ cheerleaders greeted her. “As you know, that is just not the case any more. By 2020, when everyone in this room will be an adult, do you know how many jobs in Rhode Island will require a degree? Seven out of 10 jobs will require at least some education beyond just a high school diploma. Seven. That’s why we’ve made sure to offer PSAT and SAT free of charge to every student. That’s why more than 4,000 students across the state, and many in this room, were able to take a college course for free, through Prepare RI. We’ve done all of this to make you better prepared for college.”

Under Raimondo’s proposal, which would begin in the fall if voted into law by the state legislature, guarantees two years of free college for every Rhode Island student who graduates on time from the Community College of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College or the University of Rhode Island beginning with high school seniors who graduate this spring.

Students at CCRI must attend school full time and maintain at least a 2.0 GPA. Students at URI or RIC must complete the first two years full time and be on track to graduate in four years, in order to receive free tuition for the final two years.

“You won’t have to get a college degree and there are still many great jobs that don’t require college,” Raimondo noted. “But if you want to go, the cost shouldn’t stop you from going. You deserve the choice. You deserve a fair shot at your dreams. The hardest part of getting a college degree shouldn’t be the cost. That’s why I’m doing all I can to make sure that college is affordable for everyone in this room.”     Cheers echoed through the JHS auditorium while Mayor Joseph Polisena and Johnston School Superintendent Dr. Bernard DiLullo smiled broadly.

“I like the idea,” Polisena told reporters. “She’s investing in the future, and this is a small investment that will pay huge dividends. College is unaffordable; I agree with the governor, we have to prepare our work force for the future.”     The governor, Polisena continued, “is not only working hard to bring new business into our state that will create high-paying jobs, she is ensuring that our work force will be trained in the high tech/medical and science fields. This is truly an important part of her economic development plan. She knows that for some college may not be affordable or unattainable, but her plan makes it possible. This will make many of your dreams come true.”

DiLullo said, “I think Governor Raimondo’s proposal will reinforce her mission of improving the work-force skills in the state. I agree that a high school diploma alone does not open many career opportunities. This proposal is one that will help students and families achieve the goal of higher education more comfortably and without overwhelming debt as they begin their careers.”

The superintendent paused, then, while congratulating Raimondo, went on, “As we see and hear today, our children welcome and appreciate the governor’s efforts on their behalf. I look forward to the plan becoming a reality as our students, families and ultimately our workforce will benefit. It’s impressive that Rhode Island will be leading the way in funding higher education opportunities, and I thank the governor for visiting Johnston High School to discuss the plan with our students.”

Before completing her address, Raimondo told the JHS students, “We believe in all of you. I believe in your abilities to do whatever you want to do in life. I know that when you graduate you are going to make your school, family and Rhode Island proud. That’s why I’ve made this proposal and why I believe it’s going to make Rhode Island a better place.”

She then stressed, “We’ll build a better future for each of you and every Rhode Islander. Together, we will determine our future.”

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