Three years ago, when Gov. Gina M. Raimondo started her push for the Rhode Island Promise program, she did not receive universal plaudits.
Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello thought a better use of state dollars would be the elimination of the car tax. Others thought it was just another government program that would yield little return.
But Gov. Raimondo stuck with the idea and got the program enacted for Community College of Rhode Island students for the academic year that started in the fall of 2017.
This spring, 285 of that first cohort of RI Promise students, which numbered about 1,580 when they enrolled in 2017, graduated, having completed their academic program in two years. They are part of a record graduating class for CCRI of 2,300.
Is that a large step forward or just an example of public money wasted?
Well, 18% of that first cohort have graduated in two years, a percentage that compares quite favorably with past performance at CCRI, with some years seeing as few as 4% of students graduating in two years, according to the college. In fact, school officials say that four times as many students are on track to graduate in two years as in years past.
And to show what effect the program has had in bringing more students into the higher education system, 2,337 enrolled in the second class that entered last fall.
Gov. Raimondo has understood for years that the most lasting investment is in human capital, with this program a cornerstone of her vision of the state’s future. So far, at least, it appears her approach is yielding results.