Rhode Island College students are not getting the education they deserve, academically or financially.
A school with small classes, accessible and relatively-affordable tuition, RIC offers students a chance to earn a four-year degree, even if they come from low-income families. Rhode Island residents account for 87% of the RIC population. Half of the college student body is made up of first-generation students, based on the 2020 FAFSA report. I chose RIC because it is the only school in the state that offers students a four-year degree at a reasonable price, saving an in-state student about $5,000 a year compared to attending the University of Rhode Island. Several prominent elected officials are also RIC graduates, including Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos.
I have not had an in-person class in two years. Many were lucky to have in-person classes for the fall of 2021, but my major was predominantly moved online, as I study Communications. I was fortunate to attend in- person meetings for our on-campus newspaper, The Anchor. I was relieved to see my classes were back on campus for the spring 2022 semester as I am graduating in May. However, RIC is now remote for the first three weeks of the semester. This may seem like a minor inconvenience to some, but there is a possibility students could lose another semester of face-to-face learning, while our tuition costs increase.
While nearly half of RIC students are eligible for Pell Grants, half of us do not meet requirements. On paper, my FAFSA looks average. My federal loan is small and I cannot take out another personal loan. It never covers my entire tuition bill. I work three jobs to cover my other costs. I am being charged for a gym and a library that I cannot use, while on-campus students will still be able to move in as early as Jan. 16. The increase in tuition netted the school $1.3 million. In Dec. 2020, The Providence Journal reported that RIC asked for a 5% tuition increase, which translates to $442 more per student. Within a two year span RIC has increased tuition by 7.5%. When I started in the spring semester of 2020, tuition for my first semester was $4,789. This semester, my tuition bill totals $5,349 - a more than $500 increase.
While many of us are still stuck behind computer screens with poor posture and regressing social skills, other students in the state are more fortunate. Brown, Providence College, Johnson & Wales, URI, Bryant and Salve Regina will still hold in-person lectures, while following CDC guidelines and state mandates. The updates for each school were posted on their websites. Roger Williams University will be holding only syllabus week online. RISD and CCRI were the only others to move school back online for three weeks.
Classes have started and I grow increasingly concerned that at RIC, three weeks online will turn into three months. I fear we will not get the propergraduation we deserve. We have been required to get boosters and wear masks but are told we are not allowed to return to school. I am concerned RIC students are being robbed of their education and money. I am losing my ability to socialize and I worry for my financial, professional and personal future. Tuition continues to increase and the amount of resources students have continues to diminish. My biggest fear: Is my RICdegree something employers will value?