State Matching Program for Higher Education Passes General Assembly
Wendy Roworth, 401-874-2773
KINGSTON, R.I. -- July 6, 2005 -- Shortly before midnight Friday evening in the final hours of the legislative session, a matching endowment bill for higher education passed the General Assembly. Officially called the Endowment Incentive Program, the bill establishes the formal structure needed to encourage greater private giving to the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, and the Community College of Rhode Island. Governor Don Carcieri has until July 10 to sign the bill.
The endowment incentive program will require an annual state appropriation. The state would provide URI, RIC and CCRI with $1 in funding for every $2 privately raised, with a cap for each institution. No specific funds were provided in this year’s budget for the state's share of endowment matching funds, but advocates of the legislation view the passage as a significant step forward.
“It’s a great victory. I’m thrilled about it. The bill is on the books,“ said Sen. Jack Revens of Warwick, who has been a passionate advocate of the legislation for the past four years. “We had two hurdles to overcome – the first was to get the law adopted. We accomplished that. The structure is in place and that’s significant progress. Next year we will focus on securing funding of the program to include a state appropriation that will match private donations dedicated to building the endowments of the three institutions,” he added.
“The most important outcome at this point is having secured the matching endowment legislation as an official state program and commitment,” said Robert M. Beagle, URI’s vice president for University Advancement. “ We are enormously grateful to Sen. Revens for his years of support and his articulate advocacy of the program. We are indebted to Rep. John Patrick Shanley for all of his efforts in the House to see this legislation move from the conceptual stage into a real program.
“Revens and Shanley were joined by other key leaders in both chambers who were immensely helpful in securing passage of the act,” added Beagle.
“For the first time the state has officially entered into a permanent matching partnership with higher education,” said Rep. Shanley. “I think it’s a great step forward for the University to have joined other institutions in states that have made similar commitments to matching private giving programs. Next year we will work to get the funding to support academic program needs, such as scholarships, fellowships, academic chairs, and other educational enhancements,” added Shanley.
The bill approved over the weekend contains a provision adding a state match for private gifts "for capital infrastructure investments." Private monies would be matched using Rhode Island Capital Asset Protection funds, which are limited to capital and rehabilitation projects.
“There are so many people who worked on behalf of the legislation, alumni and friends of the University who wrote letters or called their legislators,” said Beagle. “Andrea Hopkins, URI’s assistant vice president for public affairs, played a critical role in tracking developments with both the House and Senate bills and offering practical advice along the way, even up to the final minutes of the session.
“And last but certainly not least was Dan Pendergast, the immediate past president of the URI Foundation. Dan walked side-by-side with us to explain the merits of the legislation to the General Assembly, the elected officials and to the press. His commitment to and understanding of philanthropy were invaluable throughout the entire process,” added Beagle.
The legislation says that it is “clearly in the public interest for the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, and the Community College of Rhode Island to seek private funding in support of initiatives which promote academic excellence and educational access.”
The passage of the bill formally declares it to be the policy of the state to encourage and assist such fundraising through a matching program.