Over 100 guidance counselors from across the state converged onto the Community College of Rhode Island’s Knight Campus in Warwick Tuesday morning for an informational Q&A session regarding the Rhode Island Promise scholarship program.
Members from CCRI’s student services and admission’s teams and three CCRI students provided insights into the benefits of CCRI’s offerings and how the guidance counselors may pitch those opportunities to students ready to graduate from high school but may be unsure of what they want to do, or whether or not they can afford higher education.
“We need your students to be beginning this process right now,” said CCRI president Meghan Hughes, following up by asking that the guidance counselors provide feedback following the session. “This institution is laser focused on delivering on a student success agenda. The only way we get there is from your frank feedback, so keep it coming.”
Hughes spoke about the huge undertaking of preparing the college for the expected influx of students that would enroll at CCRI following the passage of the Rhode Island Promise program into the FY18 budget last summer.
“Because our friends in the State House did not sign the budget until Aug. 3, the student services team had 30 days to implement this program,” Hughes said.
CCRI said when the program was first implemented, they expected a couple hundred additional students. Instead, they went from about 1,100 enrollment in the spring of 2016 to 1,577 in the fall of 2017. This included a 54 percent increase in students from Warwick (94 to 145); a 41 percent increase from Cranston (101 to 143); and an 11 percent increase from Johnston (34 to 38).
The school has also seen an increase of 54 percent in students who receive Pell Grants, which are indicative of more kids from lower income brackets pursuing higher education, and have seen an up tick of 62 percent (355 in 2016 compared to 574 in the fall of 2017) in students of color. Increasing the opportunity for people of all incomes and backgrounds is one of the core missions of CCRI, according to the presentation.
“I saw this college come together in a way I had never seen it come together,” Hughes said of the college’s efforts to prepare for the new students. “Our team worked around the clock.”
Three students then took to the microphone to share their experiences and how CCRI had helped them pursue their academic endeavors.
“The thing that really stunk was as all my friends were going through college applications I thought I couldn’t qualify for any of this, I couldn’t go to any of these schools,” said Amber Pinheiro, who graduated from Cranston East in 2017 and is in the midst of her first full-time year through the Rhode Island Promise program at CCRI. “Eventually at the end of July I got a phone call from my mom at my summer job and that’s when I found out about the Rhode Island Promise, and I will admit that I cried. I was very excited.”
Pinheiro achieved a 3.94 GPA during her first semester and is working towards a degree in psychology. She was invited to be a guest of Governor Gina Raimondo during her State of the State address, and said that she dreams of going to medical school in the future to continue her education.
“I know that the Rhode Island Promise is definitely going to help me out with that by saving through my undergrad years, so I’m definitely really excited for that,” she said.
David Mota, from Pawtucket, came to CCRI after learning of the Rhode Island Promise program from his grandfather. He is now enrolled in the radiology program and hopes to continue his pursuit towards becoming a medical technician with multiple certificates. He said that convenience and ease of applying to CCRI was particularly noteworthy.
“It was like five minutes and I applied and everything was all set,” he said.
Jazmin Delacruz, who graduated from CCRI in 2017 and is now attending the University of Rhode Island for a degree in psychology, said that the college gave her an opportunity she never thought possible while growing up. She said she will be pursuing a master’s in clinical psychology at Rhode Island College and is currently working as an interpreter at a mental health clinic in Providence.
“I’m always grateful for CCRI for honestly giving me an opportunity,” Delacruz said. “I come from two parents who are immigrants. I come from a tough neighborhood. I come from south side Providence, so as you all know that has a reputation in itself. So I could never imagine I would have this mentality now where I’m going for my master’s and it’s literally right around the corner.”