PROVIDENCE - Students at Rhode Island's three public colleges could be hit hard by proposed budget cuts, including higher-than-anticipated tuition and fees and less money for scholarships.
Governor Don Carcieri is proposing a $17.8 million cut in the state's higher-education system for the next fiscal year and is asking the colleges to give back $3.7 million this spring.
At least $2 million of the cuts would require professors and college staff to work six days without pay.
Carcieri's plan would also reduce the state's scholarship program by half a million dollars this year and by $1.1 million for the 2008-2009 academic year.
As a result, about 670 college students who would have received last-minute scholarships of about $700 this month will not receive the grants, according to the Rhode Island Higher Education Assistance Authority.
"If you look at [the $3.7 million cut] plus roughly $17 million for next year, we are looking at a two-year deficit of over $20 million," Jack Warner, the state's higher-education commissioner, told the Providence Journal. "That's a very big whack against higher ed."
The state Board of Governors for Higher Education will probably vote this spring to raise this fall's tuition and fees at the state colleges beyond the rates it set last September, according to Warner.
Those earlier rates included a 6 percent increase at the University of Rhode Island, for a total of $8,678 for in-state tuition and fees; a 5.6 percent increase at Rhode Island College, for a total of $5,552; and a 5.4 percent jump at the Community College of Rhode Island, for a total of $3,000.
Average room and board for in-state students in 2008-2009 is set at about $10,000 at URI and $8,300 at RIC. The tuition and fee increases come at a time when state education officials are trying to encourage more first-generation, low-income, and minority students to attend state colleges.
Carcieri is recommending the cuts to try to help close a looming state budget gap of $151 million for the current year and up to $410 million for the new 2009 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Rhode Island is out of step with other states who have managed to pour more money into higher education. Nationally, states saw their higher-education budget rise by 7.5 percent, the fourth year of increased state investment.