Report looks at earning potential of RI graduates

A new report from the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now looks at the state's education system.

Christine Lopes of RI-CAN said Thursday that the group looks at statewide date to measure trends and outcomes.

This is the fourth report generated in four years, and this year a focus is on earning power for students who graduate from a high school in Rhode Island.

"We found that a high school graduate in Rhode Island can earn about $25,000 a year. What's even more startling is there's a $40,000 a year gap between a student who graduates high school and a student that has a bachelor's or higher," Lopes said.

State Education Commission Deborah Gist said she wasn't completely surprised by that.

"I think that what we hear from our business community all the time is that they need our students coming to them ready to be able to get the kind of training to help them to earn those skills so that they can take jobs that will really earn them a living wage," Gist said.

If a student has earned strong marks in high school and has the potential for college, but can't afford higher education, what are the options?

We asked a career coach.

"For those folks who can't afford to go to a four-year college, go back and get a certification in either health care or technology," said Tom Wharton, a career coach at Lifocus - OI Partners.

The commissioner said those are two fields the state is focused on too.

"The General Assembly has provided us with some funding to be to do some competitive grants to help our schools get programs that are in those specific fields," Gist said.

The RI-CAN report confirms that achievement gaps remain for students of color, who are behind 30 to 40 points when it comes to benchmarks measuring college readiness.

But there was progress. Last year, fourth- and eighth-grade students in math and reading scored above national averages on the Nation's Report Card for the first time.

"So although we're improving, we still have long way to go," Lopes said.