Improving Rhode Island’s Future…

…one degree at a time.

Close your eyes and imagine a college student — what comes to mind?

You most likely envisioned a recent high school graduate excited about starting college in the fall. What you likely didn’t picture was a 40-year-old father of three going back to finish a degree he started 20 years ago or the 35-year-old woman who is passed over for promotions because she only has an associate degree.

Now, more than ever, it’s vital for people to earn a college degree; by the end of 2018, an astounding 63% of jobs in the United States will require education beyond high school. Unfortunately, only 46% of Rhode Islanders have the credentials required to fill these positions.

As time passes, returning to school becomes intimidating — so, where does the one in six Rhode Islanders who left college without a degree go for help? For many, the answer is Graduate! Rhode Island; a local nonprofit that helps adults select a school, file for financial aid, and even schedule classes. In addition, they often connect their clients with resources to explore the possibility of receiving credits for prior learning.

Kasey Johnson, Graduate! Rhode Island’s Project Coordinator, explains, “Adults have barriers that often keep them from going back to school, these include full-time jobs, family obligations, and financial issues — our job is to help them overcome these barriers.” With so many obstacles, why do people decide to return to the classroom? Although each person has their own motivation, experience has taught Kasey that the most common reason adults go back to school is to gain economic stability.

Economic stability is not only good for the individual but, in the state with the highest percentage of poverty in New England, it benefits everyone by strengthening the economy. “Graduate! Rhode Island works hard to increase college completion rates among adults; that’s something that is beneficial for the entire state,” Kasey explains.

United Way of Rhode Island shares in Graduate! Rhode Island’s passion for education. In 2016, they awarded them a $75,000 One Year Opportunity Grant to strengthen their digital infrastructure and further promote their message. Kasey says, “United Way of Rhode Island’s level of commitment to education speaks to their determination to help improve people’s lives.”

A prosperous and competitive Rhode Island is dependent on every adult acquiring the tools necessary to participate in the workforce — this can only be accomplished through education. Kasey explains that her organization’s mission “is to make sure our clients don’t just enroll, but that they graduate.” Education helps lift people out of poverty; as long as there are nonprofits, such as Graduate! Rhode Island, helping people to better their lives, United Way of Rhode Island will be there to support them.

Visit Graduate! Rhode Island to learn more about the great work they do. Also, if you’re considering going to school to earn a degree, or certification, please check their calendar for an upcoming college fair, or contact them directly at / (401)-736-1126.

By; Jason Boulay, Communications Coordinator, United Way of Rhode Island