CCRI: No penalty for leaving state after getting RI Promise scholarship

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – New high school graduates who plan to take advantage of the Rhode Island Promise scholarship program at the Community College of Rhode Island will be required to commit to staying in the state after they finish school, but they will face no penalty if they move elsewhere.

There is no scenario where students would be required to pay back their two-year scholarships if they fail to meet certain requirements set by the state – including the residency pledge – according to Alix Ogden, chief of staff to CCRI President Dr. Meghan Hughes.

“A student who receives the scholarship funds is asked to commit to staying in Rhode Island because we hope that the student will see the value of returning on that investment right here,” Ogden said. “The reality is that approximately 90% of CCRI students do stay here, work, pay taxes, and raise their families here after graduation. For those few students that do not, the program does not contain a penalty for leaving the state.”

The General Assembly included the two-year scholarship program in the state’s $9.2-billion budget for the fiscal year that started July 1 on the condition that students agree to remain in the state after college and maintain a 2.5 grade point average and a full course load while at CCRI.

State lawmakers are calling it a pilot program that is only guaranteed to provide scholarships to the Rhode Island high school graduating classes of 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, with a full report due to the General Assembly by July 2020.

An earlier version of the proposal put forth by Gov. Gina Raimondo also covered the junior and senior years of college at the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College, but the General Assembly only moved forward with the scholarship program for students at CCRI.

The legislature’s decision to add the residency commitment to the program was designed to address some lawmakers’ fears that students would exit the state immediately after completing college, even though there is little evidence to support the idea that students who receive in-state tuition at CCRI, RIC or URI leave the state in droves.

The Promise program is expected to cost $5.5 million in its first year, about half for scholarships and half for implementation. It requires students to exhaust all other forms of non-loan financial aid before they receive the scholarship, meaning they must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). All high school graduates or GED recipients are accepted at CCRI, but they must take a placement test for classes.

CCRI is also requiring students fill out a short application for the scholarship itself.  As of Monday, 70 students had already submitted applications. Officials at CCRI say they are expecting close to 1,200 students who just graduated high school to attend the college this year, a 20% increase from 2016.

Correction: The R.I. Promise scholarship will be guaranteed to high school students who graduate between the classes of 2017 and 2020.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan