Record Enrollment At Rhode Island Public Higher Education Institutions

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND, NOVEMBER 9, 2009: There are more students enrolled than ever before in Rhode Island’s three public institutions of higher education.

According to headcount enrollment data reported to the Office of Higher Education for Fall ’09 by the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island, there are 43,412 students enrolled in the system. That tops the previous record of 43,275 students in 1992, another period in state history when Rhode Island was also experiencing the throes of a recession and high unemployment.

“The three public institutions of higher education continue to do a remarkable job of increasing enrollment and providing greater access to Rhode Islanders for postsecondary education,” said RIBGHE Chair Frank Caprio. “Like most of the state, the higher education system has been hit very hard by this recession. We have lost almost $36 million in state appropriation since fiscal year 2007, and our institutions are all working hard to achieve more with fewer financial and human resources. At last count, there were over 330 vacant positions throughout the public higher education system. These are positions which the institutions would like to fill and for which they have demonstrated a clear need but ones which they have had to keep vacant in order to balance their respective budgets.

“I commend the presidents and their leadership teams for continuing to increase enrollment under these difficult conditions. They recognize that now is an optimum time for many individuals to make a commitment to a college education. They are also aware that the state of the current economy is such that many individuals have decided to return to school to either update their skills or to learn new ones in the hope of maximizing their chances for employment,” Chair Caprio said.

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“Rhode Island’s public institutions of higher education represent an attractive option for many students from the perspective of total cost,” said Acting Commissioner of Higher Education Steven J. Maurano. “Students and families who might have otherwise considered a private college or university now find that the economy dictates they weigh their options more carefully with a focus on price/value. That leads more people to choose URI or RIC as opposed to a more costly in‐state or out‐of‐state private institution. Similarly, students who might otherwise have planned on enrolling at a four‐year public institution like URI or RIC are now choosing the community college for one or two years in attempt to earn college credits while saving money,” Acting Commissioner Maurano said.

(Despite tuition and fee increases approaching double digits over the last two years, the total tuition and fee costs at all three Rhode Island institutions of public higher education are extremely competitive when compared to their regional peer institutions across New England.)

Based on data reported by the institutions, there are 16,392 students enrolled at URI (10,037 in‐state students and 6,355 out‐of‐state students), 9,260 enrolled at RIC (8,047 in‐state and 1,213 out‐of‐state) and 17,760 students at CCRI (16,949 in‐state and 811 out‐of‐state). This is an increase of 811 students over the headcount from fall 2008 when 42,601 students were enrolled in the system. URI’s figures reflect an increase of 488 students over 2008. RIC’s increase in enrollment was 175 students and CCRI welcomed 148 more students this fall.

URI reported a total of 8,146 undergraduate students, 7,953 of whom were enrolled in degree programs. The University also reported 1,891 graduate students, 1,427 of whom were enrolled in a degree program. RIC reported 6,763 undergraduate students, 6,408 of whom were enrolled in a degree program. The College also reported 1,281 graduate students, 677 of whom were enrolled in a degree program. CCRI reported that 16,264 of its total enrollment were students enrolled in a degree or certificate program.

Overall, system enrollment continues to skew decidedly female (60.4%) with a total of 26,222 female students and 17,190 male students. That compares to a 61.4% female population in fall 2008. The University reported fall 2009 enrollment of 9,243 female students and 7,149 male students. RIC reported enrollment of 6,336 female students and 2,924 males. CCRI’s figures showed 10,643 female students and 7,117 male students.

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Minority enrollment in the system is up 313 students or .5% from fall 2008. Minority enrollment at URI jumped to 2,116 students (12.9%) vs. 1,932 students (12.14%) a year ago. At RIC, minority enrollment was down slightly at 1,297 students (14.0%) vs. 1,333 students (14.67%) from fall 2008, although this is likely due to a larger percentage of students not willing to disclose their race/ethnicity than was previously the case. At CCRI, minority enrollment stood at 4,166 (23.5%) compared to 4,001 students (22.72%) one year ago.