Chafee proposes $10-million increase in higher education budget
As Lincoln Chafee campaigned for governor in 2010, the state's three institutions of higher learning were struggling with a succession of cuts in state funding.
The reductions began three years earlier, under Governor Donald Carcieri. AsChafee was staking out his political positions, the total annual budget for higher education stood $38 million less than in 2007. Portraying himself as a champion of higher education, Chafee promised to reverse the trend.
"I will submit a budget proposal to start protecting our higher education assets. We will stop the dramatic reductions in funding to CCRI, Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island," he stated in a policy paper.
So has he followed through? Lets begin with some numbers.
Funding for higher education (excluding debt service) had been steadily rising through 2007, when the budget was $182 million. It dropped in each of the next three years, to $175 million in 2008, $154 million in 2009 and $144 million in 2010. In 2011, it went up about $250,000, a tiny fraction of 1 percent.
Now let's look at the budget proposal Chafee presented to the General Assembly on March 8. It calls for an increase of $10 million in spending on higher education, to $154 million, approximately the level in 2009.
"We are fortunate to have three fine public institutions of learning - the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island. Each plays an important role in educating our students," Chafee said in his budget address. "Unfortunately, the state's contribution to the Rhode Island higher education system has plummeted in recent years. My budget reverses that trend by proposing an additional $10 million for our higher education system."
The Board of Governors for Higher Education had asked the governor to restore $31 million of the $38 million cut since 2007. Chafee"s budget would grant about one-third of their request. Still, education officials hosted a news conference at URI for Chafee the day after he unveiled his budget to publicly commend him.
"The restoration of $10 million in funding for public higher education sends a very strong message that the governor views post-secondary education as integral to the future of Rhode Island," Ray M. Di Pasquale, commissioner of higher education and president of CCRI, and Deborah A. Gist, commissioner for elementary and secondary education, wrote in an op-ed piece for The Providence Journal in which they endorsed Chafee's budget.
It's hard to argue with the numbers.
"He did it,"said Chafee aide Stephen Hourahan.
While the dramatic reductions stopped before Chafee took office, he did propose a $10-million increase in funding -- a 7 percent jump -- the first substantial increase in state spending for higher education since a 1-percent increase in 2007.
Ultimately, it will be up to the General Assembly to decide the final higher education allocation.
We rate this a Promise Kept.
ChafeeForGovernor.com, "The First One Hundred Days Plan for Jobs," accessed May 11, 2011
Chafee"s budget address, "A Path to Prosperity,” accessed May 11, 2011.
Interview, Stephen Hourahan, senior adviser to Gov. Chafee, on May 11, 2011.
Providence Journal, "On campus, plan for more aid raises spirits,” by Gina Macris, March 10, 2011.
Providence Journal, "In budget address, R.I. Governor Chafee proposes new taxes,” March 9, 2011.