PROVIDENCE, R.I. - On Thursday evening, Governor Gina M. Raimondo will release her Fiscal Year 2016 budget. Rooted in the belief that everyone should have the chance to make it in Rhode Island, her budget will include significant investments to create opportunity for our students.
"Helping students build the skills they need to succeed in a 21st century economy is one of the best investments we can make," Raimondo said. "It's investing directly in people to give them a ladder of opportunity, and it's also an economic driver for our state. My jobs budget will invest in each rung of the ladder - our schools, college affordability, and workforce training for adults."
Among some of the proposals the Governor is expected to announce to expand opportunity for our students include:
Creating Prepare RI, a dual and concurrent enrollment initiative
Strengthening the state's education system requires improving the accessibility and affordability of higher education. Employers frequently require that job applicants have technical certification or higher education degrees, and Rhode Island must prepare its workforce with the skills needed to succeed. To promote access to higher education, the Governor's budget will include $1.3 million for Prepare RI, a dual and concurrent enrollment initiative.
This early college program will allow qualified and eligible high school students to earn credit at their high school and at our state's public colleges and universities at no cost to the student. Whether a student wants to go to college or start a career right after high school, Prepare RI will make their path to a degree or industry certification more affordable and more attainable.
"This initiative totally rethinks what a student's end of high school experience is like, regardless of where they go to school," said Raimondo. "It is about fulfilling a promise to our students that college and a good career are accessible."
Instituting a Last-Dollar Scholarship Program
In addition to improving access to college, the Governor has emphasized the importance of keeping higher education affordable to Rhode Islanders. Higher education affordability is particularly important to lower-income students and families, for whom a college education can develop necessary job skills and provide a path to upward economic mobility. The Governor's budget restructures existing higher education grant programs and creates a last-dollar scholarship program for Rhode Island students. In its first year, the program will invest $10 million of state funds in students with proven academic performance but for whom higher education might be otherwise unattainable.
Establish a Loan Forgiveness Program
The budget also invests $1.75 million to create a college loan forgiveness program for young workers starting as entrepreneurs and innovators in Rhode Island. The Wave Maker Fellowship program will offer up to four years of loan forgiveness for approximately 100 recent graduates pursuing careers and starting businesses in technology, engineering, design, and other key sectors. With two-thirds of the awards intended for Rhode Island students, the Wave Maker program will encourage graduates to remain in the state, attract young innovators, and promote new businesses and economic activity.
The Governor recently called for increasing the minimum wage from $9.00 per hour to $10.10 per hour as quickly as possible to boost our economy and strengthen our families. But she also made it clear that this proposal must be coupled with true economic development so Rhode Islanders can have high-quality, family-supporting jobs. That's why her budget will take a comprehensive approach to expand opportunity for our students, our workers, and our families to stop our decline and spark our comeback.
The Governor will deliver her Budget Address, and share many more details, on Thursday, March 12th at 7:00 p.m. The Governor's Office will be using #comebackRI and #JOBSbudget on social media tomorrow.