Referring to Chafee’s budget address Tuesday night at the Statehouse, during which the governor discussed his plan to restore $10 million to the state’s higher education system, the URI president said the governor sent an important message.
“As you all know (Tuesday) night was quite an occasion for higher education in Rhode Island,” Dooley said during a press conference called by the governor at URI to discuss his plans to reverse years of heavy budget cuts to the URI, Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island.
“We saw something last night, we heard some things last night that we have not as a community heard in a very long time,” Dooley said.
“It’s a message that I believe will resonate nationally. It’s almost impossible these days to pick up any publication that deals with public higher education and higher education in general in the United States and not see yet another state announcing dramatic reductions in funding for public higher education,” Dooley said.
“Just yesterday, the governor of Pennsylvania suggested that the funding for the Pennsylvania State University and the state universities of Pennsylvania should be reduced by 50 percent in one year,” Dooley said. Despite facing one of the most challenging budget crisis in the country, Dooley said the governor chose to invest in higher education and in education more broadly.
“This sends exactly the right message for the times, that we are a state that understands it is essential to provide the appropriate educational opportunities at the public colleges and university in Rhode Island in order to create a new and sustainable and vibrant economy for the people of Rhode Island,” Dooley said.
Dooley said Rhode Islanders will be surprised at the national attention that such an investment attracts, given the extraordinary budget pressures in the state.
He added that the monies earmarked for URI will be used to support the education of Rhode Island undergraduate and graduate students.
Chafee said that during the past four years “our valuable institutions of higher education have been cut $38 million.
“I wanted to reverse that trend,” Chafee said. “I know the Board of (Governors for) Higher Education asked for $30 million, and I wasn’t able to go along with $30 million, as we face this huge budget deficit and the loss of federal stimulus funding. But I was determined to reverse the trend of having cuts over the past four years.
Chafee he is said he is working with Rhode Island Higher Education Commissioner Ray M. Di Pasquale, also the president of CCRI, and the other presidents to prevent a tuition increase at CCRI. He said his goal is to eliminate tuition increases at URI and RIC going forward.
“This is an indication of my commitment,” Chafee said. “If we can do this with this budget year 2012, one of the hardest ever, to make this commitment of $10 million, it’s an indication of what future years will look like. As the revenues do come back, that commitment will continue because I believe this is the future of our state, not only higher education, but elementary and secondary also. I urge the General assembly to keep that $10 million in the budget.
“Thank you very much and spend it wisely,” he said to chuckles and strong applause.
Di Pasquale also had high praise for the governor’s budget decision.
“Let me convey to you on behalf of the 43,000 students in our public institutions, our faculty, staff and the administrators here today that we are extremely grateful for what you have done, for your vision. You have put a stop to a dangerous spiral, and you have restored higher education funding,” DiPasquale said.
He said the governor has made higher education a major priority.
”In my meetings with the governor and his team, since they have taken office, I have been extremely encouraged by what I view as a deep commitment to higher education.”
Rhode Island College President Nancy Carriuolo said people on her campus were very optimistic this morning in talking about what the governor said Tuesday night about education.
“We thank you very much for your understanding of the role of education in economic development. We want to thank you for being interested in each and every one of our public institutions and the impact we can have with our separate missions on making our state stronger and better,” Carriuolo said.
Rhode Island businessman and prominent URI alumnus, Lorne Adrain, Chafee’s selection to lead the Board of Governors for Higher Education, said it was great to be starting anew.
Adrain began his remarks by talking about a continuing monthly luncheon that he has been enjoying with Chafee and other opinion leaders in the state since well before the election.
“We call it CHOW, challenges, hopes, opportunities and wisdom,” he said. “It was in the context of those conversations that I came to know a man that I really like and admire. What I heard last night just made me feel that stronger about his leadership. In these very difficult times, it takes imagination, courage and commitment to do what he did last night. I say thank you.”
Read President Dooley’s Blog comments about this announcement.