Free tuition: An unfair, unthinking approach

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Putting aside the political aspects, Gov. Raimondo’s proposal of free tuition would be a slap in the face to all Rhode Islanders who have recently graduated college. Having just graduated from RIC myself (on time with a dual major and well-deserved honors), I still owe nearly $25,000 despite having made significant payments. And what would the governor’s plan do for recent graduates? Nothing! To give future students such a tremendous and sudden economic advantage over recent grads is unacceptable. Compared to someone who would benefit from Raimondo’s plan, the burden of having to continue repaying loans would leave me no fair chance when it comes to competing for adequate salaries in the (still not-so-plentiful) job market. And I certainly have no intention of having my tax dollars pay for another student while I’m still paying for myself.

I propose two alternatives that would still benefit future students while maintaining a level playing field.

Option 1: Redirect all of the funds that would pay for future tuition into an interest-free loan program for exclusive use by Rhode Island’s students. Students would be able to borrow up to the equivalent of two years’ tuition at their chosen public institution. In this way, the state would be able to recoup most of a student’s expenses and reuse them.

Option 2: Reimburse all recent in-state graduates who attended CCRI, RIC and URI for the amount equivalent to two years (four semesters) of tuition they paid through loans or out-of-pocket. If the state cannot come up with the sum all at once, state tax credits or monthly dispersements would be practical alternatives.

I see no reason why lawmakers shouldn’t consider these possibilities before impulsively jumping on the bandwagon.

Comments

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richardcorrente

Dear James,

It's not only unfair and unthinking, it's dishonest.

"FREE" tuition is not at all free. It is TAXPAYER-PAID tuition, and when and if we have TAXPAYER-PAID tuition watch out. The costs will skyrocket as soon as the taxpayers give those in control, a blank check with the taxpayers signature on it.

The very least they should do is be honest about it and NOT CALL IT FREE when it isn't.

Happy Spring everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Tuesday, February 21 | Report this
DanElliott

Good points, James. I went to CCRI and took advantage of the unemployment waiver, which helped me finish college when opportunity knocked (I was laid off unexpectedly). I still had to pay a long list of fees and buy books of course. Many veterans and seniors graduated with me which was great to see, and the tuition waiver made it possible for them.

The concept of helping everyone get a two year degree is great. The problem is that it shifts the cost from the student to the taxpayers, and it will compromise the quality of public college education in Rhode Island. Less than half of students who set out to get a degree ever finish college. We all remember those classmates who were here one semester and gone the next. Taxpayers can't afford to pay for everyone to "try out" college. Only those who are serious about completing their degree and working hard to achieve their potential should get a hand up.

As you mentioned, the Rhode Island jobs climate is bad enough for graduates. High taxes is a big factor in how we got here to 50th place. I fully support any efforts to enhance the quality of education for RI students. I want to see the most opportunities for the most people. But we have to consider the unintended consequences of shifting the burden to the taxpayers.

Dan Elliott

Greenwood

Tuesday, February 21 | Report this
VoWarwick2017

While we are at it why don't we retroactively reimburse everyone that graduated from RIC, URI and CCRI. I understand that you are frustrated that you have graduated and now have those loans to payback and it seems that a the next batch of kids will get an easier time of it.

Benefits need a starting place and there are always those on the bubble that will cry "unfair" but in the end no one said that anything in life is fair. In fact almost every aspect of life is horribly unfair.

Also, could folks please stop calling this FREE, it isn't FREE. There is a cost to it, tax payers are going to be paying a lot more because of it.

Wednesday, February 22 | Report this
Kammy

Why not take the money that would be spent on "free tuition" and lower the fee's for all students at RI state schools? Give discounts at the book store even. My daughter paid $200 on a book that was nothing but 3 hole punched pages in a binder! That is highway robbery. Ease the pain of all, not just some.

Wednesday, February 22 | Report this