PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo unveiled her $8.96 billion budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year Tuesday night, and among the key initiatives she put forth was a plan to make it easier for students to afford an education at one of the state’s public colleges and universities.
In hoping to keep college graduates in Rhode Island, the governor said she wants to expand a loan forgiveness program for recent grads who decide to work in-state.
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Loan debt is a huge burden for many graduating students, including Nick Jouett of North Providence, who called it “like a second rent.”
Jouett, a microbiologist, wants to live and work in Rhode Island but said many of his friends have made different decisions.
“I know a lot of my friends who are planning to leave or have left,” he said Wednesday.
During her State of the State address, Gov. Raimondo announced plans to fight the so-called “brain drain” by expanding the Wavemaker Fellowship Program.
“Anyone who graduates from a Rhode Island university with a B+ average in a science or technology field and who stays in Rhode Island in a STEAM job, we’re going to help you pay back your student loans,” Raimondo said. “We need those young people here being part of our economic recovery.”
The plan would increase funding for the program from $1.75 million to $5 million and would eliminate caps on loan payments, meaning graduates would be eligible for loan forgiveness for the full value of their repayments for up to four years.
“It would mean a lot, definitely, not having to worry about paying every month a certain amount of money,” said RIC Senior Samatha Lavoie.
This academic year, loan forgiveness will be granted on a competitive basis. If the governor’s proposal is approved, recent grads would automatically qualify.
The plan doesn’t just apply to students who’ve graduated from Rhode Island’s colleges and universities, but also students who went to high school in Rhode Island and want to come back to the state to work.