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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Higher education community rallies in support of bond referenda questions 5, 9, 10 and 13

Media Contact: Wendy Roworth, 401-874-2773

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- October 6, 2004 -- Rhode Island's higher education community held a rally today in support of the four bond referenda questions on the ballot in November that pertain to the state's colleges and university.

Frank Caprio, chairman of the Board of Governors for Higher Education, Jack Warner, commissioner of higher education, URI President Robert L. Carothers, Rhode Island College President John Nazarian, and Community College of Rhode Island President Thomas Sepe all spoke in support of questions 5, 9, 10 and 13. They said that approval of the four questions is vital to meeting the needs of a growing student population and to continue to boost the state's economy.

"It's clear that funds appropriated for public higher education represent a prudent investment," Caprio said. "They result in a more highly educated population for the state and a higher quality of life for all Rhode Islanders."

"Each of the four higher education referendum questions enhances access to quality higher education opportunities and enhances economic development prospects for Rhode Islanders," said Warner. "Approval of referenda 5, 9, 10 and 13 is essential to sustaining a high quality system of higher education for our state."

Question 5 will authorize $50 million in bonds to renovate residence halls at URI and construct a residence hall at RIC. The URI share of the bonds—$20 million—will be used to finish the seven-year residence hall renovation project initiated in 1999. The RIC share will finance construction of a 366-bed residence hall that will meet demand for on-campus housing and assist the College in its efforts to increase enrollment.

"These investments in public higher education will help to recruit and to retain students," Nazarian said. "The provision of educational opportunity for all qualified students is one of the best investments Rhode Island can make to help secure future prosperity for all."

Question 9 will provide $14 million to construct an Undersea Exploration Center and rehabilitate the Pell Marine Science Library on URI's Narragansett Bay Campus. This project will integrate key resources and services of the Graduate School of Oceanography to continue its position as a leader in the 21st century exploration of the oceans. It will also house Professor Robert Ballard's archaeological oceanography program and the Inner Space Center, which will link researchers at sea with scientists and schoolchildren around the country.

"The Pell Library is one of the best marine science libraries in the world, but it's outgrowing its current space and needs technological upgrades to keep pace with the increasingly complex information age," said Carothers. "The Undersea Exploration Center will ensure that URI remains one of the top oceanographic research and education institutions in the world, and that we lead the way in the new field of archaeological oceanography."

Question 10 will authorize $6.7 million to construct an Athletic Performance Center on URI's Kingston campus and renovate facilities at Meade Stadium and Keaney Gymnasium. The state-of-the art center will house a weight training room, aerobic fitness area, rehabilitation area, hydrotherapy station, and offices for training staff and strength coaches. In addition, the academic advising and study center in Keaney Gymnasium will be expanded to include an updated computer lab and tutoring rooms, and the athletic training and sports medicine area in Keaney will be updated and improved. At Meade Stadium, the west stands will be rebuilt and the east stands will be renovated.

Question 13 will provide $50 million for the construction of the Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences, a major center of education and research at URI that will drive economic development in the state's growing biotechnology industry. The 165,500-square-foot facility will house modern classrooms, high-tech specialty laboratories, core support instrumentation, faculty offices, incubator space for technology commercialization, and a 400-seat auditorium. It will support new scientific discoveries, provide work force training, and support job creation in the life sciences.

"Institutions of higher education play a key role in economic development," said Carothers. "These bond questions aren't just seeking money for new buildings, but rather they are an important investment in the economic future of Rhode Island.”

While the Community College of Rhode Island does not have a specific item on this year's ballot, President Sepe noted that many CCRI graduates will realize the benefits of the new facilities at RIC and URI.

"For example, of the 287 graduates of the class of 2003 attending school
full-time, nearly 40 percent were admitted to RIC and 20 percent went to URI," Sepe said. "If voters approve these four bond referenda, it is likely that future CCRI students will be engaged in learning at the Pell Marine Science Library or at the Biotechnology and Life Sciences Center, and will be living in decent, safe and accessible housing at RIC or URI."

For further information about the higher education bond referenda, visit www.voteyesforhighered.org.