Haslam helps Rhode Island gov pitch free tuition plan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s Democratic governor has invited a Republican counterpart to help make the case for her plan to provide free tuition for two years at public colleges.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam talked with Rhode Island business leaders on a conference call Thursday.

Tennessee three years ago became the first state to make community college tuition-free for new high school graduates, and is considering an expansion to include older adults. Raimondo’s plan would go further, including not just community colleges but the last two years at four-year institutions. She says it’s a workforce development initiative.

Further from Rhode Island Public Radio

During a Q&A, a Rhode Island business leader asked Haslam if his projected costs increased once students were allowed to sign up.

Haslam says his state’s estimates were accurate in predicting demand and that not every student will take the option.

According to Haslam, even if some students move away after their schooling, it’s better than having an unemployable workforce.

“I’ll bet we come out way, way, way ahead just with the fact that we can offer people a lot more realistic chance of having a good paying job when they’re done,” said Haslam.

Raimondo says her proposal is an investment in Rhode Island’s future work needs.

Her plan has gotten endorsements from some business and university leaders, but has faced a lukewarm reception from some in the General Assembly, and its fate remains unclear.

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