RI Reconnect gives students a second chance at earning their degree

It’s never too late to give an old dream the good old college try. The Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner (OPC) is offering a second chance to any Rhode Islander who has earned college credits but never completed a degree program.

It’s not only a chance for people to go back to college, but to get help in going back to college,” OPC Director of Communications, Beth Bailey said.

Former students may have cut out of school early for any number of personal reasons. Whatever the cause and no matter how long ago those credits were earned, adults hoping to return to the classroom can now revisit or re-evaluate their former educational goals at Drop-In Day, an event hosted by OPC at Providence Marriott on Monday, June 27, between 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

This opportunity was made possible through grant funding and support from Sheldon Whitehouse, the United States Senator for Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Foundation. Interested folks should pre-register online at rireconnect.org (registration is free and a requirement to attend). This sets up a one-on-one pairing with an educational navigator and essentially, personal cheerleader, who will help with reenrollment into local college programs.

“Attendees will get paired with an educational navigator who will do an assessment and find out their career goals,” Bailey said. “They will provide help all of the way through even after enrollment.”

The OPC’s mission is to not only help people meet their educational goals, but to alleviate any challenges that make meeting those goals difficult. This includes transferring credits to a different college, bringing credits from an out of state university, providing debt advice, addressing childcare issues, providing help with travel costs, and even redeveloping skills in writing, literacy, or math. People who need additional support will be able to enroll in Rhode Island Reconnect’s new short-term, bootcamp-style free courses that promote college readiness.

“They may have left college ten years ago or last year,” Bailey said. “The length of time doesn’t matter. If people need the help, we can provide the help.”

The service is open to all Rhode Islanders. The OPC hopes to reach traditionally underserved populations, including women and people of color, in its efforts to ensure people of all backgrounds have access to in-demand jobs that pay well.

“Over the course of a lifetime, people who have degrees and credentials earn more than people who stop at a high school level,” Bailey explained.

According to the Rhode Island Reconnect website, most jobs in Rhode Island will soon require a degree or credential, but only 47% of adults (ages 25-64) in the Ocean State have one today. Individuals with a postsecondary education can expect to earn an average additional weekly income of $468. With 70% of jobs in Rhode Island requiring postsecondary education, it’s understandable why returning to school is something to consider.

“Right now, in the post-Covid shutdown period, there are a lot of really great jobs that are available, and companies are actively recruiting to find qualified workers,” Bailey said. “If you are very close to finishing a degree to qualify for a well-paying job, let us help you qualify for that job.”

This second chance opportunity is particularly appropriate for students who do not have a degree but have earned at least 30 college credits at any college or university in the United States or abroad. Participating schools with in-person representation include Rhode Island College, Roger Williams University, Community College of Rhode Island, New England Institute of Technology, University of Rhode Island, Johnson & Wales University and College Unbound.

“Going back to college isn’t as heavy of a lift as most people think,” Bailey explained. “There are a lot of resources that can help in ways people may have never imagined.”

To register and learn more, head to rireconnect.org.