Updated July 27 at 8:27pm

Tuition is rising; still a bargain?

Tuition is slated to rise next year at the state’s colleges and university, but they remain competitive with their counterparts in the region and a bargain compared to most private schools in Rhode Island, especially for state residents, says Ray M. Di Pasquale, president of the Community College of Rhode Island and state commissioner of higher education.

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EDUCATION

Tuition is rising; still a bargain?

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Tuition is slated to rise next year at the state’s colleges and university, but they remain competitive with their counterparts in the region and a bargain compared to most private schools in Rhode Island, especially for state residents, says Ray M. Di Pasquale, president of the Community College of Rhode Island and state commissioner of higher education.

“We still are a great bargain in the scheme of other state institutions in New England,” he said. “We are still extremely competitive.”

In his capacity as commissioner, Di Pasquale discussed with Providence Business News how challenging a decision it was for the R.I. Board of Governors of Higher Education Nov. 1 to vote to raise tuition and fees starting September 2012 at CCRI, Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island.

“It was an extremely difficult decision, particularly in these tough economic times,” Di Pasquale said, but the board of governors had little choice. The board is highly conscious of the burden that the rising cost of education places on parents and students, he said, and literally “hates” to raise rates. “It’s a real struggle,” he said.

But in the last five years, due to the state government’s economic woes, state aid to higher education dropped by a total of $40 million, Di Pasquale said. In addition, the schools themselves face higher expenses in almost all areas of operation, from payroll costs to routine maintenance.

So, even a $4.5 million increase in the 2012 state budget for higher education – the first in several years – was not enough to offset the need for higher tuition.

Without the $4.5 million, Di Pasquale noted, tuition would be even higher next year, so he said the board of governors is thankful for it. Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s proposed budget in March had an extra $10 million for higher education, but lawmakers whittled that down.

In New England, Rhode Island’s tuition rates at state schools are neither the highest nor the lowest, ranking from second to fifth in the six-state area in the current academic year, according to the New England Board of Higher Education.

In fiscal 2013, yearly tuition for in-state students and the percentage increase at each school will be: CCRI $3,950, 7.5 percent; RIC, $7,558, 4 percent; URI, $12,450, 9.5 percent.

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