Education is the key to a better job, better wages, and a
The economies of today and tomorrow require a workforce with some
form of postsecondary education, including certification and credentialing.
Since the economic recovery began in January 2010, approximately 11.6 million
jobs have been created. Of those jobs, greater
than 11.5 million required a post-secondary degree or credential. Such
staggering figures force us to conclude that a high school education remains
necessary, but is no longer sufficient to meet the demands of today’s labor
At the recent Higher RI Summit, which brought together
national, regional, and local leaders to focus on postsecondary education in
Rhode Island, and in which I actively participated, Governor Raimondo in her
opening remarks communicated the following: “By 2025, I want 70 percent of
Rhode Islanders (ages 25 – 65) to have a degree or credential past high school.
Today’s economy gives us no other option. You need that level of education and training
to succeed. I am laser-focused on creating jobs and opportunity in Rhode
Island, but we can’t do that without a solid postsecondary foundation. Today’s
summit is focused on improving equity, affordability and innovation so that we
can set every Rhode Islander up for success.”
And, the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), of
which I’m a member, established a Commission on Higher Education and
Employability. The Commission, which is chaired by Governor Raimondo, has as
its main charter to “… increase the life and career readiness of college and
university graduates … “
It is clear many policy leaders are taking this issue
seriously. Recently the RI Senate held its 6th Annual Senate Education Summit. The
summit, led by Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Hanna Gallo and
Vice-Chairman Harold Metts, focused on student post-secondary preparedness. And,
thankfully, work has begun, as exampled by the partnership between CCRI and
Central Falls High School, aggressively working to better prepare students for
But this is not enough.
In the short term we must scale up pilot programs that we
know work, like the partnership between CCRI and Central Falls. We also need to
continue to support our early college programs, which are giving thousands of
high school students the opportunity to try out a college class and earn
college credits, for free, while still in high school – a terrific way for
students to demonstrate they are college ready. In the long term we need an
even more robust Pre-K-12 strategy that ensures all RI students are adequately
prepared to succeed in postsecondary education/training. This will certainly
lay the needed groundwork for Rhode Islanders to attain a better job, better
wages and better future.
We know we must do more. The most recent facts show that
approximately 66 percent, or two thirds, of the incoming CCRI freshman class
were required to take one, two or even three remedial/developmental education
courses. From my perspective, we are letting down these students, their
families and RI, and must do more.
Policy makers are engaged and committed to addressing this
issue. Now we must agree on a long-term strategy to ameliorating this 66
percent deficiency. This will require a multi-year commitment to systemic
reform, and we must have the courage and conviction to stay the course.
Anything less is unacceptable.
Building upon the momentum resulting from the Higher RI
Summit, RI Senate 6th Educational Summit, the work of CCRI, and the NEBHE Commission,
I plan to convene a group of leaders in education: Pre-K – 12, higher education,
and education-focused foundations (local and national), to name a few, to bring
a laser-focused spotlight on this issue and work to assess the way forward to
achieving the strategy. We owe it to the 66 percent of the students, their
teachers, their families and the entire state of RI. The time to act is now.
Louis P. DiPalma is a Democrat representing District 12
(Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton) in the Rhode Island State
Senate, where he is a member of the Senate Committee on Education.