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RIC’s Class of 1959 awards 50 scholarships to help defray rising tuition

Members of the Class of 1959, at RIC's May 16 undergraduate commencement.

Members of the Class of 1959, at RIC's May 16 undergraduate commencement.
One-hundred-and-twenty five dollars.

That was the total cost of a four-year education for a student at Rhode Island College who graduated in 1959.

Fifty years later, members of the Class of 1959 are helping their young successors who may be struggling financially to earn their degrees at their alma mater. As part of its golden anniversary celebration, the class is awarding 50 scholarships in the amount of $125 to eligible graduating seniors to help defray the mid-year tuition increase that was approved by the Board of Governors for Higher Education last December 2008.

Back in 1959, students paid no tuition and only a general activity fee of $25 per year, until the college moved to the Mount Pleasant Avenue campus in 1958 when the fee was increased to $50 a year. The class of 1959 entered as freshmen in 1955 and paid $25 for their first three years, then $50 for their senior year, for a total of $125 for their entire four year stay.

Now, tuition cost for one year at RIC is $6,171 for in-state students, and $14,882 for out-of-state students.

The scholarship program is part of the Class of 1959’s overall fundraising effort, called "Thanks A Thousand Times,” to raise $125,000 (1,000 times the amount they paid for a four-year degree) in gifts and scholarships for the college. The class went beyond its goal, raising a record-setting total of approximately $134,000, which was announced at the commencement ceremony.

Henry Guillotte, left, and Donald Babbitt present RIC with a gift from the Class
of 1959 during the May 16 commencement.
Don Babbitt, a member of the Class of 1959 and the reunion chairperson, introduced the idea to the reunion committee.

“Learn, earn and return,” said Babbitt, quoting a friend whose wife was a classmate. “My heart goes out to all students who are struggling because I know what it was like.” He said even with the low tuition costs in the late 1950s, it was difficult to come up with the money.

“We (the class) were empathetic to the students who got the news of a financial surprise last year, and wanted to help,” he added.

Babbitt described marching in the commencement procession with the students who received the scholarships as another “nice connection” for the golden anniversary class.

The scholarships were awarded based on financial need to graduating seniors earning degrees in the service professions.

The RIC Class of 1959 was the first class to graduate from the Mount Pleasant Avenue campus.