Governor Gina Raimondo testified before the House Finance Committee on Wednesday in support her proposal to provide two free years of public college to Rhode Island High School grads.
"Everybody deserves a chance. This isn't about giving away something for free it's about providing everybody with access to job training and education,” said Governor Raimondo.
The proposal has received its share of criticism, notably from House Speaker Nick Mattiello who’s been in a fairly public battle with the Governor over this plan and his desire to eliminate the state's car tax.
"The correlation is going to have to be factually made on what the benefit is for society. Quite frankly I'm of the belief right now that we are graduating more than enough highly educated college students,” said Mattiello.
If approved the plan comes with a price tag of $10 million this year and $30 million annually by the year 2021. The Speaker questions if that number is realistic.
"The general concern I have is that we would be the first and only state in the union to provide this benefit to our students tax payer funded. While that's laudable and it's appealing on a lot of levels it's a burden that our tax payers have to bear,” said Mattiello.
"It's not a first in the nation type program. Tennessee has already done it and it's been very successful in Tennessee. Other cities and state's have done similar things and they work,” said Governor Raimondo.
Wednesday's hearing was packed. Dozens of students turned out to testify as well as representatives from all three public colleges in the state.