The Rhode Island Urban Education Teaching Center is a partnership between Rhode Island College, Central Falls and Navigant Credit Union. Under their creative plan, RIC will take over an empty 22,000-square-foot bank building at 943 Dexter St., which was recently renovated and makes an attractive location for a satellite campus building.
The city and Navigant have agreed on a $1.2 million offer for the building. Most of the money will come from a $1 million grant through Rhode Island Housing’s Acquisition and Revitalization Program. RIC will develop the building to offer continuing education, workforce development and professional enrichment. It is looking at a late 2018 opening.
This fits nicely with Rhode Island’s increasing efforts under Gov. Gina Raimondo to marry higher education with the needs of the state’s employers, helping citizens to develop the skills they need to compete in a global economy.
Located on one of the city’s busiest streets and accessible by bus, the new education center is expected to serve mainly residents of Central Falls, Pawtucket, Lincoln, North Providence and Cumberland — communities that include about 175,000 of the state’s 1 million people. But, of course, the 19,376 people in the host city of Central Falls would benefit most.
Central Falls has the state’s highest percentages of low-income people, immigrants and minorities, and its lowest median income. About 26 percent have less than a ninth-grade education, 19 percent have some high school education, and 30 percent are high-school graduates or have a general equivalency diploma. Further education is difficult because of residents’ limits on time, resources and transportation.
Thus, a local college building could be life-changing for many. And once a college gains a foothold in a community, it often expands, providing further opportunity.
In a report released in October, the Annie E. Casey Foundation looked at 12 areas that strongly predict future success, and found that Latinos in Rhode Island ranked dead last in America. Given the importance of changing that picture, it is encouraging to see higher education rise up in Central Falls.
Mayor Diossa argues that one of the strongest effects of the new RIC building could be hard to measure. Young people growing up in Central Falls will pass by the building, see the activity going on there, and realize that college could be in their future.
That is a wonderful message to send. We salute this creative project and wish all parties success with it.