President's FY2022 Budget Testimony| May 17, 2021



Presidential testimony before the Rhode Island Senate Finance Committee

Good evening Chairman Pearson and all the members of the Senate Finance Committee,

Let me take this opportunity to thank you for the support that you’ve given to Rhode Island College over this past year.  I’d like to thank Governor McKee, the Council on Postsecondary Education, and the Board of Education as well.

Before I begin my remarks, I’d like to take a moment to publicly thank David Dooley for his leadership and service to the University of Rhode Island. Dr. Dooley has not only been a standout university administrator and a higher education change agent throughout his career, but he has also generously made himself available to me as a sounding board and guide providing me with tremendous insight, perspective and support as a new president. Thank you President Dooley and I wish you great success in you next chapter.. 

This past weekend marked the culmination of one of the most challenging years’ in the College’s history, as we have had to navigate the impact of the global pandemic. Throughout it all, our students, faculty, and staff have demonstrated the resilience and determination needed to respond to the challenges at hand.  I’m incredibly proud of how our institution has pulled together and responded to ensure our students continue to have access to a quality education. On Sunday, RIC celebrated the college’s 167th commencement exercises in honor of the graduating class of 2021 awarding over 1700 bachelor degrees and 314 masters and doctoral degrees. Each and every student that crossed the stage represents the very fabric of our institution and this state. The determination and desire to press forward despite the challenges of this past year. Our graduates embody the BOLD steps the college expects to take with your continued support.

COVID-19 compounded an already difficult situation resulting in what can only be described as a perfect storm. In order to balance a projected $10.4 million deficit, we had to resort to personnel reductions including:  68.5 layoffs, holding 58.5 positions vacant, as well as administrative pay reductions, including my own.  Over the last few years our full-time workforce has been reduced by approximately 20 percent.

Despite these financial challenges, the college has continued to press forward:

  • Thanks to our incredibly talented faculty and staff, in March 2020 RIC transitioned to a remote instructional environment in less than two (2) weeks and has continued for over the last 14 months;
  • We continued business, student support, and administrative operations with our staff working primarily in a remote environment that was previously not possible;
  • We navigated the COVID landscape with minimal disruptions to our campus, including students living on campus and maintaining essential services; and just recently,
  •  We announced our intent to return to in-person instruction and campus activities for Fall 2021.

In addition, let me share with you just a few of the points of pride that we are most proud of at Rhode Island College:

  • RIC was recently recognized by the 2021 U.S. News and World Report as ranked #2 for Social Mobility among All Public Colleges and Universities in New England. Making us among the most effective public institution educating blue collar, working class, first generation and communities of color;
  • In 2021, Money Magazine also ranked RIC among the Top 10 Best Value Colleges New England (medium and large institutions);
  • Supporting the college quality and value, Rhode Islanders overwhelming approved a $38 million dollar bond to ensure the college can modernize Clarke Science. Thank you to the leaders in this room and all the viewers watching at home for your support; and
  • RIC has also become a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), which will make us the first 4-year public HSI institution in Rhode Island and all of New England. This designation occurred due to the college’s student population where 25% of RIC students self-identify as Hispanic or Latinx. 

Today, I’d like to discuss how you can help to ensure RIC’s success on behalf of our students and Rhode Island. 

RIC Compact

This past January I announced the RIC Compact. In collaboration with state stakeholders, we commit to ensuring ALL Rhode Islanders have access to a high-quality, post-secondary education that drives social mobility and economic prosperity for Rhode Island residents. 

With your support of the college’s $58.1 million general revenue request, RIC can:

  • Meet the needs of our current and future students by expanding and accelerating flexible degree offerings to include nights, weekends, online and hybrid learning. 
  • Hire specialized IT personnel to build and support online programming.
  • Support for first-generation high school, college age and adult Rhode Island learners by employing academic specialists.
  • Avoid additional layoffs and begin restoring incurred layoffs and vacancies
  • Invest in full-time faculty to support talented academic personnel

With your support RIC can effectively fulfill our compact with Rhode Islanders!

Governor’s FY 2022 Budget

RIC’s FY 2022 budget request of $58.1 in general revenue represents $5.9 million above the governor’s proposed budget. The governor’s proposal essentially level funds the college’s budget in general revenues for operations while providing an additional 5% increase in tuition.  A $58.1 general revenue investment will help support the college’s fixed costs including personnel expenses attributed to our collective bargaining contracts.  

The budget request also includes:

  • RESTORATION of personnel cuts to bring back essential staff for on-campus learning of $2.4 million
  • STRATEGIC INFRASTRUCTURE investments to expand and accelerate online, nights and weekends of $2.25 million

I appreciate Governor McKee’s efforts to submit a balanced budget, although it currently ONLY provides an additional $300,000 in general revenues for operations in FY 2022 versus the college’s $5.9 million request.  I understand the difficult nature of state funding requirements and appreciate the opportunity to discuss our strategic investments with legislators.

RIC is Rhode Island’s College.  Our total student enrollment stands at 6,414 students, 90% of which are Rhode Islanders. Over 70% of whom will go on to live, work and raise families here in the Ocean State. 

The college has also become an economic engine including a total economic impact of $213.8 million in Rhode Island according to Jack Faucett Associates Inc 2019 economic impact study. This includes over 1,500 jobs and $56 million in income supported directly and indirectly by the college. 

According to the 2018 American Community Survey results, a high school diploma provided an average annual salary of $29,152 vs. a $62,626 average annual salary with a bachelor’s degree. Even with a tuition increase of 5%, a Rhode Islander can graduate from RIC with an entire four-year college degree for approximately $40,000. 

Every dollar invested in Rhode Island College is an investment in Rhode Island!

We welcome additional dialogue as to the college’s critical investment needs and how RIC can contribute to the state’s immediate and long-term future.

Sherlock Center
Thank you to Senate President Ruggerio, Senators Pearson, Cano, Lombardo, Gallo and others who advocated on behalf of the Paul V. Sherlock Center and for assisting with finding a short-term solution while inviting stakeholders to work collaboratively towards a more permanent model. RIC has been and continues to be committed to supporting families and children who rely on vision services provided by the Sherlock Center. 

Henry Barnard

This past year RIC was faced with the difficult decision and I ultimately made the determination that the college, and frankly our students, could not continue to financially support Henry Barnard, a private elementary school on the college campus. Yet, out of a difficult situation emerged a collective  of parents and families who secured a partnership with Providence Country Day and continue to work with the college towards a viable alternative that will allow those families to continue to support their child’s education.
RIC Academic Affairs

I’d also like to take a moment to recognize and introduce the college’s new academic leader, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Helen Tate. Provost Tate joined RIC this past summer after having worked at Wingate University as their provost and executive vice president. Since her appointment, Provost Tate has made great efforts, in collaboration with RIC faculty, to embolden RIC’s academic offerings to align with our students’ needs as well as Rhode Island’s overall economic development and prosperity.  Dr. Tate and I look forward to partnering with you all in efforts to support Rhode Islanders opportunity to access a high-quality, high-value four-year college degree.

Closing Remarks

Thank you again for the opportunity to be with you today. I am happy to answer any questions.