PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Rhode Island House of Representatives has approved a pilot program to provide tuition-free community college to in-state students.
The Democratic-controlled House voted 62-11 on Thursday to pass the measure calling for two years of free tuition for Community College of Rhode Island students.
The vote in favor of the pilot, which would cost $2.8 million in its first year, came as part of broader deliberations over a $9.2 billion state budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year. It must still be considered by the state Senate.
The pilot is a scaled-back version of a more expansive proposal that had been championed by Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo. That plan also would have provided free tuition for the third and fourth years at the state’s four-year public colleges.
The revised plan, written by House Democrats who said Raimondo’s was too costly in a tough revenue year, imposes new eligibility requirements on its beneficiaries. Community college students who get the two years of free tuition would have to commit to stay in the state.
It would be a “last-dollar” scholarship for students who aren’t already getting a free education through other scholarships. It would not cover room or board or other fees.
Republicans voted against the proposal, and instead sought to shift the money to repairing K-12 school buildings. Their proposed amendment was rejected.
House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan, a West Warwick Republican, said the state shouldn’t create a “deeply flawed” new entitlement program when the state faces an “increasing and persisting deficit.”
Morgan said she was concerned that it “starts with a pilot and is absolutely guaranteed to grow.”