Help for Students

RI Reconnect

Helping Rhode Islanders change careers, learn a new trade, or get on the path to a degree or certificate

OPC wants to help you get your degree or postsecondary credential. If you are thinking about changing careers, learning a new trade, or getting a degree or certificate, we’re here to help at no cost to you.

We recognize that older students have different needs than traditional college-aged students so we created Rhode Island Reconnect. It’s a free program that exists to help connect students to experienced educational navigators to serve as a guide through the process of returning to school or job training. The navigators will help you identify a goal, create a plan to reach that goal, and connect you to the resources that will help you achieve that goal.

Why it matters for you and for RI

Very soon, most jobs in the Ocean State will require a degree or credential, but only about 56.7% of adults (ages 25-64) in Rhode Island have one today.

Current enrollment and program completion rates suggest that we’ll need an additional 90,000 Rhode Islanders completing programs to meet that goal. Many of them will be adults over age 25 who may need additional support along the way. OPC is helping reconnect adults to educational and job training opportunities in Rhode Island that will put them on their own unique journey to success.

To learn more about this program, go to the RI Reconnect website and check out some of the success stories. There is a form on the site should you choose to have a navigator contact you so you can work together on your plan.

Veteran Resources

There are a number of federal and state programs and policies that support eligible veterans, service members, and their families as they pursue postsecondary education

This program enables eligible service members, veterans, and their family members to receive monies that can be used for education and training expenses. For more information about benefits and eligibility, check out www.benefits.va.gov/gibill. To apply for your benefits online, visit https://www.va.gov/education/how-to-apply.

Qualified applicants will receive a Certificate of Eligibility once applications have been reviewed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Keep a copy of this letter to bring to your school certifying official or apprenticeship sponsor to confirm your entitlement.

This program is available to qualifying servicemembers of the Armed Forces or National Guard and may be used for degrees at institutions of higher education that are accredited with the U.S. Department of Education. Additional information about eligibility may be obtained from an Education Officer within your unit.

RIOPC is home to the Rhode Island State Approving Agency. We have approval oversight over any level of education or training program that is eligible to offer VA educational benefits to its students. Most of our active degree and non-degree granting institutions have already been approved for GI Bill benefits as well as quite a few of our apprenticeship programs. If the program you are seeking has not yet been approved, please contact Rebecca Ryan at Rebecca.Ryan@riopc.edu for more information about next steps.

For access to all approved schools and programs nationally including key veteran enrollment information as well as BAH calculations, check out the comparison tool. 

Rhode Island’s three public institutions of higher learning (Community College of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, and University of Rhode Island) offer a number of education benefit programs that expand education access and affordability for service members, veterans, and their families. Listed here are some benefits and eligibility requirements:

Priority Registration

Any combat veteran who received an honorable discharge status and has submitted a DD214 demonstrating combat service to the school is eligible.

In-State Tuition

-Any active duty service member or the family member of any active duty service member, regardless of where they live

-Any GI Bill-eligible veteran

-Any non-veteran GI Bill beneficiary, provided that they live in the state while attending the state school

Disabled Veteran Tuition Waiver

Any veteran who:

-Has documented service connected disability of 10% or more

-Is a RI resident

-Has submitted a FAFSA application (eligibility not required– the law only specifies completion)

RI National Guard Tuition Waiver

Any member of the RI Army or Air National Guard is eligible.

Military Transfer Credits

Any veteran or active-duty service member who submits transcripts or prior learning assessment for evaluation is eligible.

Students and families can obtain more information about state and federal education benefits from the veteran coordinators at each campus

URI
Rachael Garcia, MSW
Assistant Director of Veteran Affairs and Military Programs
401-874-5162
rachael_garcia@uri.edu

RIC
Earl H. Bright III
Assistant Administrative Officer/Veteran Certifying Official
401-456-9770
ebright@ric.edu

CCRI
Patrick Enos
Veteran Resource Coordinator
401-219-0614
penos@ccri.edu

Financial Aid

Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner is committed to helping students in Rhode Island receive financial aid for college, postsecondary study, or workforce training. 

Financial aid is the general term for the mix of options available to pay for college: loans, scholarships, work-study and grants. The funding sources may be federal, state, private or a combination.

To apply for a Pell grant, direct loan, Parent PLUS loan or other federal aid, you must go to Federal Student Aid website and create an account. Obtain an FSA ID, then complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form

FAFSA is the first step in the process for applying for financial aid for college. The United States government, through the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Office, provides approximately $112 billion in grant, work-study, and loan funds each year to help pay for college or career school. Their website is chock-full of excellent details about student financial aid and loans. The FAFSA application form opens annually on October 1. Choosing the college that matches your abilities, ambitions, preferences, and wallet is critical. There are literally thousands of choices and this website, the College Scorecard, from the U.S. Department of Education, is one method to try to compare all the degree-granting colleges and universities.

Mapping Your Future is another financial aid resource to check out. They are a neutral, non-proprietary, and non-commercial resource of information and services for students, families, and schools; and they will not require anyone who uses their site to participate in any loan program, or use any guarantor or lender. Another helpful resource is FinAid. Their site offers a comprehensive look at all of the available resources to consider when financing postsecondary education.

Locally, the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority, through its College Planning Center, can assist with counseling and more. The agency is a non-profit, quasi-state authority that provides state-based education loans and assists with the college planning process, such as educating families on how to obtain financial aid, providing tools that help families make informed and responsible borrowing choices for college. 

If you want to consider and apply for scholarships, try searching via FastWeb. It’s a free scholarship search platform that connects students to scholarships and financial aid tools. Locally. The Rhode Island Foundation’s online tool lists all the scholarships available from local organizations. And the College Planning center at the R.I. Student Loan Authority also offers a database of Rhode Island-based scholarships.

One other important bit of information….if you want to enroll in a public college or university but they degree you want to major in isn’t offered locally, check out this list of institutions in Tuition Break. Through an agreement with the New England Board of Higher Education, eligible Rhode Island students (undergraduate and graduate) can matriculate at other public institutions in New England at a tuition rate that is significantly less than the out-of-state tuition rate normally charged. New England Board of Higher Education’s Transfer Guarantee Program helps eligible R.I. students lower their tuition costs when they transfer into a bachelor’s program at an out-of-state, public, four-year college or university. Students are eligible when they enroll in an approved program that is not offered by the public colleges and universities in their home state – and sometimes they’re eligible when they live closer to an out-of-state college.

In your journey to earn a postsecondary degree or credential, there is help available to you as you navigate the financing options.

Student Complaints

The United States Department of Education Regulation 34 CFR 600.9, the “Program Integrity Rule,” as part of its state authorization provisions, requires states to provide a process for students to file complaints relating to programs offered by postsecondary educational institutions authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. The specific types of complaints covered by these regulations are: 

  • Allegations of state consumer protection violations, including, but not limited to fraud and false advertising;

  • Allegations that state laws or rules addressing the licensure of postsecondary institutions have been violated; and

  • Allegations regarding the quality of education or other accreditation requirements.

If your complaint regards other matters, you are encouraged to seek resolution from that institution first through the institution’s internal complaint procedure. In accordance with the Council on Postsecondary Education’s Student Complaint Procedure (S-16, section I), if the institution’s internal procedure fails to resolve the complaint, the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner will then refer the student and/or third-party individuals with complaints related to federal or state laws or regulations to the appropriate federal or state agency. In addition, students or other individuals with complaints involving an allegation of criminal and/or illegal activity will be referred to their campus police department, their local police department, or the Rhode Island State Police. Complaints involving allegations of discrimination will be referred to the institution’s Affirmative Action Office and/or Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights (or the applicable federal EEOC office).

If your complaint deals with an online course or program, the Office can help you seek resolution pursuant to the Council on Postsecondary Education’s Student Complaint Procedure (S-16, section II).

File a complaint by filling out this form and emailing it to Jill.OlsonCrowley@riopc.edu

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