Fogarty proposes education initiatives
"We have had the highest tuition increases in the past 20 years and there are many middle class families who are really struggling to ensure that their kids can continue on in college," says Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty.
01:00 AM EDT on Thursday, August 3, 2006
BY JENNIFER D. JORDAN
Journal Staff Writer
Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty is proposing a series of education initiatives to make college more affordable for Rhode Islanders, including freezing tuition at the state's three public colleges and dedicating up to $10 million for scholarships for needy students, as part of his gubernatorial campaign platform.
Fogarty's campaign said the initiatives would be financed through cost savings -- within the higher education system and elsewhere.
"We have had the highest tuition increases in the past 20 years and there are many middle class families who are really struggling to ensure that their kids can continue on in college," Fogarty, a Democrat, said in a recent phone interview. "A well-educated work force is absolutely critical to the future of our state and higher education is an important part of Rhode Island's economic engine. But affordability is a real issue."
Fogarty, who is running against Republican Governor Carcieri, said he wants to freeze tuition at this year's rates for students who maintain a B average at URI, Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island. His campaign estimates that a URI student would save about $3,500 over a four-year college career; a RIC student would save about $2,100; and a CCRI student would save about $200. Several others states, including Georgia, New Jersey and Delaware have launched similar programs.
Jack Warner, the state's commissioner of higher education, says that while such programs have merit, they can also divert scarce resources away from low-income students, who also need help paying for college.
"We don't like the fact that tuition and fees keep going up," Warner said. "We wish there were more state investment in financial-aid programs. And rewarding students for their performance is a good thing to do, but you need to consider carefully . . . the fact that the real crisis out there is students from low-income families who are really having a hard time finishing their degree."
Fogarty's education plan also calls for additional state grants for low-income CCRI students with a 2.5 grade-point average.
In addition, he wants to make it easier for low-income parents to save money in the state's college savings program by offering a state match of up to $500 made to the CollegeBoundfund Tuition Savings Program.
Fogarty said the money to finance these programs -- $2.5 million a year for the scholarships; $1 million for CCRI grants; and $800,000 in matching contributions -- would come from savings in higher education and other areas of the state budget.
"Any large organization has opportunities do things better and more efficiently," Fogarty said. "We want to do our part to invest in the higher ed system, but we also want to make sure the taxpayers are getting value for their money.