McNamara’s Hope Scholarship Program would open doors to higher education for many Rhode Islanders
STATE HOUSE — In an effort to make higher education accessible to more Rhode Islanders, Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) has introduced the Rhode Island Hope Scholarship Pilot Program Act.
The purpose of the scholarship legislation (2023-H 5009) would be to increase the number of students enrolling in and obtaining degrees in a timely fashion from Rhode Island College and to promote more graduates in high-need fields and the trades.
Touting it as a workforce development bill, Representative McNamara, who chairs the House Education Committee, said, “Seven out of 10 jobs in the future are going to require a postsecondary credential. In Rhode Island, critical professions such as nursing, teaching and social work are experiencing shortages that will have a profound impact on our state.”
The Hope Scholarship would provide the cost of two years of tuition and mandatory fees for eligible students during their junior and senior years at Rhode Island College.
“This scholarship will help students at a critical point in their college careers, when they typically begin to get frustrated and stressed,” said Representative McNamara. “Between their junior and senior years is when students tend to become overwhelmed with working and paying for college and they could use the assistance. Many Rhode Island College students utilize Pell grants, which are considered the foundation of a student’s financial aid package. This scholarship would make up the difference, assist students who are under a mountain of debt, and throw a lifeline to Rhode Island College.”
The act would include detailed eligibility requirements for students as well as reporting and disbursement requirements. Applicants would have to qualify for in-state tuition and fees; be currently enrolled as a full-time student who has declared a major; enroll or have enrolled full-time as a freshman as a first-time student and continue to be enrolled on a full-time basis at Rhode Island College; maintain an average annual cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.5 or greater; remain on track to graduate on time; and commit to live, work or continue their education in Rhode Island after graduation.
In addition, the act would permit charitable donations to the scholarship program as well as an annual appropriation by the General Assembly.
The bill, which is cosponsored by Representatives Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence), Nathan W. Biah (D-Dist. 3, Providence), Susan Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), Enrique G. Sanchez (D-Dist. 9, Providence), Mary Ann Shallcross Smith (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket), Michelle E. McGaw (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton) and Leonela “Leo” Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket), has been referred to the House Finance Committee. Similar legislation (2023-S 0077) has been introduced in the Senate by Senate Majority Leader Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln).