State leaders have agreed to set aside more than $2 million to launch the Institute for Cybersecurity & Emerging Technologies at Rhode Island College, but now the clock is ticking for the college to get the fledgling institute to be financially self-sustainable.
Last legislative session, the General Assembly approved Gov. Daniel J. McKee’s fiscal 2024 request to invest $2 million from American Rescue Plan Act funds in the institute. The ARPA money will be distributed over three years, while RIC is expected to allocate a total of $2 million over that same period, according to McKee’s plan.
After three years, covering the annual expenses of the institute will be up to Rhode Island College, which has had financial strains in recent years because of lower enrollment.
The initial $4 million will be used to support startup expenses that include recruiting and hiring a director, three full-time and 10 adjunct faculty members as well as supplying technology and initial programming, according to an April 20 presentation to the House Finance Committee detailing McKee’s requested 2024 budget amendments.
More specifically, approximately $2.5 million of the $4 million in funds would go toward supporting staff with the remaining $1.5 million allocated for program development, administration and several other expenses including overhead, finance, legal and human resources, the presentation said.
As the institute recruits more students for the institute, the college plans to allocate tuition dollars to support “ongoing costs and educational programs,” said John Taraborelli, a RIC spokesperson.
Indeed, the presentation before the House Finance Committee said RIC expects the institute to be “self-funded through tuition revenue and grants” after three years.
Marianne Raimondo, dean of the RIC’s School of Business – where the institute will be located – says McKee gave the college a goal of recruiting 1,000 students over the next five years.
Currently, the college has more than 300 students enrolled in cybersecurity, computer science and computer information system majors. The school is also launching an artificial intelligence major next fall.
According to Taraborelli, the college has an “aggressive fundraising strategy” to cover the expenses of the institute that includes securing grants and raising public and private funds, as well as recurring revenue streams.
Already, the college is pursuing $1.5 million in grant funding, Raimondo says, and she expects that amount to grow.
Former congressman Jim Langevin, who has been named distinguished chair of the institute, has contributed $100,000 from his campaign account. These funds will be used to create a scholarship fund as well as support faculty, staff, equipment and other expenses, Taraborelli says.
In a statement, Langevin indicated that the institute is already thinking about when the ARPA allocation runs out.
‘We are committed to securing the necessary resources from all levels of government, foundations, and the private sector,” he said. “We will work hand in hand with our partners to ensure that this institute thrives and benefits not only our students but also our state’s economy and national security.”
Langevin, who was cofounder and co-chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, previously told Providence Business News that he plans to seek accreditation for the institute from the National Security Agency’s National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity program. This would give the institute an additional boost as it would be able to draw from the federal CyberCorps scholarship program for cybersecurity studies.
While the institute is still in its early stages, local industry members have emphasized the value of sustaining the institute
Christopher Parisi, host of the AI Wave Podcast and president of Providence marking firm Trailblaze Inc., notes that the institute will not just be focused on cybersecurity but also emerging technologies such as AI.
Parisi cites a recent study from The IBM Institute for Business Value that concluded that 40% of jobs globally will need to be “reskilled” within the next three years because of the increasing number of companies using AI and automation technologies. Further, the study shows that all kinds of employees will feel the effects of these new technologies, but entry-level jobs are expected to be affected the most.
Given this impending need for workers skilled in both cybersecurity and new technologies, Parisi says he expects the institute will receive support from businesses and local leaders who hope to see it flourish.
“This is incredibly important,” Parisi said. “Focusing within the college is also smart because it helps create a workforce that is prepared for the changing economy.”
(An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed information about what the $4 million allocation would be spent on. That information came from an April 20 presentation to the House Finance Committee.)
Want to share this story? Click Here to purchase a link that allows anyone to read it on any device whether or not they are a subscriber.