Rhode Island to offer free community college

Rhode Island to offer free community college
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Rhode Island passed legislation on Thursday to make community college tuition-free starting this upcoming fall semester, CNN reports. 

Lawmakers approved "The Promise Scholarship" in a vote Thursday and appropriated $2.8 million from the state budget for the first year of the four-year pilot program.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) promptly signed the bill after the state Senate vote. The state Senate rejected Raimondo's earlier proposal to make two years of schooling at the state's two public four-year colleges free, in addition to covering community college tuition. 

Rhode Island is the fourth state to make community college free, following similar legislation in New York, Oregon and Tennessee.  

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The program would give pay for the tuition of students attending the Community College of Rhode Island, regardless of their income or need.

Students must be Rhode Island residents, have graduated from high school the previous semester, and are required to maintain a 2.5 GPA as a full-time college student in order to be eligible for the scholarship. 

Between 1,200 and 1,300 students are expected to receive the scholarship in the fall semester, and the Community College of Rhode Island is preparing for an estimated 200 new first-time students to enroll as a result of the policy. 

The new scholarship, exclusive to high school graduates entering college full-time, will exclude most of the college's 15,000 students. 

The Promise Scholarship will work to cover the full tuition cost alongside other need-based grants that the students receive. 

Currently, in-state tuition for full-time students is $2,074 per semester. 

Upon receiving the scholarship, students must also agree to stay and work in Rhode Island for as many years as they received tuition.