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Rhode Island Launches Statewide Incentive Program to Increase the Number of Students Prepared for College

Low- and Moderate-Income Students Can Earn Up to $2,000 by Meeting College-Readiness Milestones in High School

PROVIDENCE, RI – Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo, alongside the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) and Research Improving People’s Lives (RIPL), a non-profit network of university experts using science for social good, today announce the creation of the Rhode2College Program, a statewide initiative designed to motivate high-achieving students from low- and moderate-income households to take the steps necessary to prepare for and enroll in college.

Through a partnership with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), academically eligible students across the state will be selected for the program and earn money upon completing a set of college-readiness milestones. Over their last two years of high school, participating Rhode2College Scholars can earn up to $2,000 in short- and long-term payments to help towards college as they complete key college preparation milestones. This new approach to improving access to higher education is the first statewide effort of its kind.

“This innovative program will help ensure that more of our students are prepared for college,” said Governor Raimondo. “Together, we will provide Rhode Island students with resources and personalized learning, while also modeling a different approach to financial aid linked to college readiness.”

Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, also expressed his support for the program.

“Our students have incredible potential, and sometimes an added push is all it takes to help them consider new possibilities for the future. The Rhode2College Program opens up college as one of those possibilities, putting students on the right pathway to be prepared for and excited about college,” he said.

Beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, the state will identify students from low- and moderate-income households as possible Rhode2College Scholars based on their PSAT™10 score during their sophomore year. The PSAT™10 – which the state provides to all public school sophomores for free – reflects what Rhode Island students are learning in the classroom, measures the skills and knowledge they need for postsecondary success, and is an important step on the road to college. Of all low- and moderate-income students, those scoring in the top 25 percent will receive letters from the Governor identifying them as eligible for the Rhode2College Program.

Students will be able to earn money for college by taking a variety of college-readiness actions during high school including: completing a college interest survey, completing periodic college searches, completing 20 hours of free, personalized Official SAT® Practice on Khan Academy®, completing at least one advanced course in high school, submitting at least one college application, and completing the FAFSA to support college application and enrollment. Some money will be earned immediately after completing each task, and some will be deposited in a savings account that the Rhode2College Scholar can access upon enrollment in an accredited higher education institution.

“We’re proud to support Rhode Island’s work to expand access to college to more students by providing them with resources to help them on their journey,” said Jon Deane, Director for Education, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. “We are excited about the partnership and look forward to seeing the impact of this innovative initiative.”

Today’s announcement is part of a partnership between the College Board and CZI to provide personalized pathways to college success for millions of students. Over the past year, the College Board and CZI have worked on giving students in low-income communities and rural areas greater access to personalized learning tools and resources, including PSAT-related assessments, interactive SAT® practice, and Advanced Placement® courses — all of which help prepare and propel students forward and identify a postsecondary program that best fits their needs and passions.

“With the Rhode2College Program, Rhode Island will clear a path for more of its students to own their own future and be propelled to college success,” said Steve Bumbaugh, Senior VP of College and Career Access at the College Board, which develops and administers the PSAT 10. “This initiative has the promise to significantly change how we approach college readiness efforts across the country.”

Professor Justine Hastings of Brown University, the founding director of RIPL, is leading a multi-university expert team to inform the program design and measure results.

"RIPL is proud to use data, science, and technology to support this innovative program, which we hope will be an affordable, proven program that policymakers can use to increase opportunity for all students," she said.

The Rhode2College Program is additionally supported by First Data, a global leader in commerce enablement services, which is generously donating technical support for the program's payment functionality as part of their effort to help government organizations meet the demand for impactful, low-cost government services.

Rhode Island is the first state in the nation to launch this type of effort, and findings will be used to show how financial incentives can be used as a strategy to increase the number of high school students prepared to enter college. The state will measure and learn from the program, and, if successful over the initial two-year launch, will consider investing in a permanent program.

To learn more, visit www.rhode2college.org.

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