CCRI reports 47% gain in R.I. Promise enrollments, boost in diversity

THE SECOND COHORT of the Rhode Island Promise program saw more interest than the first cohort, according to data released by the Community College of Rhode Island. / COURTESY COMMUNITY COLLEGE OF RHODE ISLAND
THE SECOND COHORT of the Rhode Island Promise program saw more interest than the first cohort, according to data released by the Community College of Rhode Island. / COURTESY COMMUNITY COLLEGE OF RHODE ISLAND

WARWICK – Forty-seven percent more first-time, full-time students enrolled in the second Rhode Island Promise cohort than the first, according to Community College of Rhode Island data released Tuesday.

Per CCRI’s count, 2,321 first-time, full-time students enrolled in the second cohort of the Rhode Island Promise program this fall. Last year, CCRI published 1,478 first-time, full-time students had enrolled in the first cohort. However, with the Tuesday announcement, they are revising that number to 1,584 after receiving and processing all of the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application materials.

Tuesday’s announcement comes nearly two months, to the day, after CCRI confirmed 40 percent of the first cohort did not return for their second year.

“We are really pleased to see so many students take advantage of the program,” Sara Enright, CCRI chief outcomes officer, told PBN in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “Young Rhode Islanders need and deserve an opportunity to get higher education.”

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While she does not expect the number of students enrolled in the second Rhode Island Promise cohort to fluctuate “in any material fashion,” Enright said there may be slight movement – “five or six” – as students “present themselves as Promise-eligible” later in the year.

Now in its second year, the Rhode Island Promise program is a taxpayer-funded initiative championed by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo to increase the accessibility of a college degree to Rhode Islanders by providing courses at the state’s sole public community college for free.

While more than half of the second cohort (56 percent) is white, 40 percent of the 2,321 students are people of color, according to data released by CCRI Tuesday. The rate of diverse students enrolling in the program marks a 53 percent increase from the first cohort, which Enright said is evidence for the “broad appeal” of the program.

“We have significant equity gaps to contend with as a state and we are really pleased to see students of color taking advantage of this program,” she added.

Fifty-four percent of the second cohort are receiving some level of Pell grant support, with 59 percent having CCRI costs covered entirely by the federal program and the rest getting a combination of federal and state support. The remaining 46 percent of the total second cohort, or 1,068 students, are receiving only state scholarship money.

The Rhode Island Promise program counts those students receiving purely Pell grant funding because in their second year at CCRI, they may not be eligible for as much Pell money, and thus would receive partial or full state funding.

From a state affordability perspective, “the more students receiving federal funding, the better,” said Enright. In her experience, low-income students “don’t realize Pell grants exist” and are designed to help them pursue higher education.

Emily Gowdey-Backus is a staff writer for PBN. You can follow her on Twitter @FlashGowdey or contact her via email, gowdey-backus@pbn.com.