A state's quality of life and its prospects for future economic development are closely tied to the overall educational attainment of its residents. States with the most highly educated populations attract information-age, technologically oriented businesses and industries that improve a state’s tax base and enhance the quality of life for all residents. Furthermore, states whose residents possess higher education degrees earn higher salaries in business and industry and are less likely to lose their jobs in times of economic turmoil. In contrast, the fortunes of individuals without higher education degrees have been remaining stagnant or declining.

This scenario calls for a strong state public higher education system designed to provide opportunities for an increasing number of Rhode Island’s residents to earn college degrees, thereby attaining the sophisticated skills and knowledge necessary to thrive in our information-age economy. Public and independent institutions of higher education play a role in educating the state’s citizenry. However, public higher education institutions are unique: they enroll the largest numbers of state residents, and those residents are much more likely than non-residents to either join or continue on in the state’s work force after graduation.
What constitutes a strong state system? It has some clear earmarks. A strong system:

The Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education is committed to building the kind of strong system of public higher education that strengthens our state. In particular, our commitment is to provide Rhode Island’s residents with affordable access to the high quality programs that provide life-long learning opportunities that meet the needs of business and industry, that create new knowledge through research, and that enliven all of our lives by opening the doors to cultural and economic opportunities.

We believe that a semi-independent unit of government best provides oversight of a strong system. The Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education fits that description nicely. The board consists of 12 public members, including a student from one of the three public institutions of higher education, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate in staggered three-year terms (except for the student, who serves a two-year term) plus the chair of the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education and the chair (or designee) of the finance committees of the House of Representatives and Senate. The chair, who is one of the public members, and the other members of the board are volunteers who represent a variety of background, opinions and perspectives. An educated citizenry is any state’s greatest asset; developing that type of citizenry through a strong, articulated system of higher education that is focused on enhancing the performance of the system is our responsibility and our goal.

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Last Updated September 22, 2003

By Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education Commissioner Jack Warner