Legislative leaders join governor for launch of Hope Scholarship at Rhode Island College



Legislative leaders join Gov. Dan McKee for a ceremonial signing of legislation creating the Hope Scholarship Wednesday at Rhode Island College.


STATE HOUSE — Speaker of the House K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), along with Senate Majority Leader Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln) and Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) joined Gov. Dan McKee at Rhode Island College Wednesday to celebrate the launch of the Hope Scholarship with a ceremonial bill signing.

The Hope Scholarship Pilot Program (2023-H 5099aa, 2023-S 0077aa), which was sponsored by Representative McNamara and Leader Pearson, is intended to increase the number of students enrolling in and obtaining degrees in a timely fashion from Rhode Island College and to promote more graduates in high-need fields and the trades. Funding for the program was included in the state budget (2023-H 5200Aaa).

The budget and enabling legislation created a five-year pilot of the Hope Scholarship, beginning with the new fall 2023 semester. It applies to current juniors and seniors who are on track to graduate in four years (and meet all other eligibility requirements), as well as incoming freshman and some adult students. About 300 RIC students are expected to benefit from the scholarship this year. Many of those students attended Wednesday’s bill signing, along with RIC alumni Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket, Central Falls) and Rep. Enrique G. Sanchez (D-Dist. 9, Providence).

The Hope Scholarship will provide the cost of two years of tuition and mandatory fees for eligible students during their junior and senior years at Rhode Island College.

“The Hope Scholarship will enable more Rhode Islanders to achieve their educational goals, helping students create a better future for themselves and their families while enhancing the next generation of our workforce,” said Speaker Shekarchi. “Hope Scholarship participants must commit to staying in Rhode Island, which gives us a highly skilled workforce that will be more attractive to companies. In turn, this will strengthen our economy.”

“Higher education and workforce development in this state will rely more and more heavily on Rhode Island College. If we’re going to be able to staff those critical careers, such as education and nursing, then it is imperative that we make this investment in our future,” said Leader Pearson. 

“This scholarship will help students at a critical point in their college careers, when they typically begin to get frustrated and stressed,” said Representative McNamara. “Between their junior and senior years is when students tend to become overwhelmed with working and paying for college and they could use the assistance. Many Rhode Island College students utilize Pell grants, which are considered the foundation of a student’s financial aid package. This scholarship would make up the difference, assist students who are under a mountain of debt, and throw a lifeline to Rhode Island College.”

“The Hope Scholarship at Rhode Island College is a transformative investment in public higher education in our state, one which will pay dividends for generations to come,” said Rhode Island College President Jack Warner. “This scholarship makes RIC by far the most affordable option for in-state students and makes a four-year degree accessible to many more Rhode Islanders.”

The act includes detailed eligibility requirements for students as well as reporting and disbursement requirements. Applicants will have to qualify for in-state tuition and fees; be currently enrolled as a full-time student who has declared a major; enroll or have enrolled full-time as a freshman as a first-time student and continue to be enrolled on a full-time basis at Rhode Island College; maintain an average annual cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.5 or greater; remain on track to graduate on time; and commit to live, work or continue their education in Rhode Island after graduation.

In addition, the act will permit charitable donations to the scholarship program as well as an annual appropriation by the General Assembly.