Legislative Testimony - Student Success Center Project, Feb. 8, 2022

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LEGISLATIVE TESTIMONY
ARPA Capital Projects Fund for
Rhode Island College Student Success Center Project

HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE
Frank D. Sánchez, President | Tuesday February 8, 2022


I.     Good evening Chairman Abney and members of the committee,
a.    Express my full support for the Governor’s proposal to allocate 35 Million dollars of Rhode Island’s ARPA funds for the creation of new Student Services Center on the campus of Rhode Island College.
b.    This project will centralize critical services for students, which are currently scattered around the campus, into a modern “One-Stop” center.
c.    Over the last several decades, higher education institutions across the country have effectively incorporated such student service centers to support students, their success and degree completion.

II.    The proposed Student Services Center at RIC will include:

  • Records
  • Financial Aid
  • Bursar

o    All critical for the enrollment of our students.

  • Counseling Center
  • Health Services
  • Military Resource Center

a.    Where applicable, staff will be crossed trained to address multiple service needs, and the centrally located building will also be accessible online, at night and on weekends to accommodate our growing percentage of adult and working students.  
b.    This project will allow us to upgrade our employees’ work environments and provide them with the tools and technology they deserve and need in their service to students.

III.    This is an incredibly important funding opportunity for Rhode Island College.
a.    If the pandemic has confirmed anything for us at RIC, it is that our students are driven and tenacious in their pursuit to better their lives, their families and communities across Rhode Island.  
b.    In addition to navigating the impact of a global pandemic, our students continue to work hard to make ends meet working one, or even two jobs, to pay their way through college.  
c.    Like many of us, a large number of students are also responsible for dependent and caring for their loved ones.  Throughout it all, RIC students have demonstrated the determination that countless first-generation college graduates have demonstrated during their time at Rhode Island College. 
d.    Nearly half of RIC students are the first-in-their-family to attend college. 

IV.    Unfortunately, these same students have to navigate what they sometimes call the “RIC Runaround”, having to walk through a maze of offices all over campus to get the services and supports they need to stay enrolled and succeed.  
V.    I am guessing most of us in this room, including myself, had no idea of what a Bursar is even if you could find the office.  I know I didn’t when I first stepped on campus as a freshman.

VI.    Joking aside, we have a tremendous opportunity here to remove barriers and make sure students absolutely have access to services vital to their college success.  

a.    In my time at RIC I have heard from many students, traditional, first-generation, transfers, adults and lower income students, who have had real difficulty just navigating the college.  
b.    When that involves financial aid, health services or counseling, it can really hamper graduating on-time, or sadly, in some instances, even graduating all together.

VII.    I also add that this project is very close to my heart.  My training and experience is in college student success.  
a.    My doctorate is in Higher Education Administration, my entire career before becoming President of RIC was in Student Services, and prior to coming to RIC, I was the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at The City University of New York, the largest urban public university in the nation.    
b.    I have long held, and the data clearly support, that for first generation and lower income students, student supports, resources and services are a major factor in academic success.  
c.    Frankly, in Rhode Island and nationally, higher education has not done enough to support these students and give them the opportunities and experiences they deserve.  
d.    We need to “even the playing field.”  This investment would go a long way toward that end and show that Rhode Island gets-it.  It shows that we truly want every student to succeed. 

VIII.    Rhode Island College is a remarkable institution!  
a.    Our mission is simple and straightforward.  We are committed to serving Rhode Islanders by providing an affordable and accessible bachelor’s degrees and serving a significant number of Rhode Islanders who come from diverse communities and who are part of the State’s changing demographics, economic vitality and future.
b.    There is no one else doing that work the way we are.  We provide our graduates with the degrees and skills for professional jobs and they live and work and raise their families in Rhode Island.     
c.    We are also recognized for our success, U.S. News and World Report ranked us #2 for Social Mobility Among All Public Colleges and Universities in New England and Money Magazine ranked RIC among the Top 10 Best Value Colleges (medium and small).  

IX.    I am truly grateful for the continued support that the General Assembly has provided the college, and you certainly have contributed to our success. 
a.    With this proposal for a new Student Service Center, you have another transformative opportunity to help Rhode Island College students succeed, and given that these students stay in Rhode Island, you will be helping Rhode Island succeed. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

That concludes my testimony and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have regarding my support of the Governor’s proposal.