RIC student to join Sen. Whitehouse for State of the Union Address  

RIC President Nancy Carriuolo and Travis Escobar.
Travis Escobar, president of the college’s Student Community Government, will be a guest of U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse at President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

Escobar, a junior majoring in political science, is the recipient of a federal Pell Grant, a needs-based awards program for which Whitehouse has been working to maintain funding in the Senate.

In November, Whitehouse hosted a forum at RIC advocating for continuation of the grant (What’s News story). At the event, Escobar, a first-generation college student, spoke of his concern of how Pell Grant reductions could negatively affect current and future students.

“I love this country because any hard working individual can achieve the American Dream,” Escobar said. “I would not be able to work toward my dream of becoming a congressman if it wasn't for Pell Grants.”

“Travis’ story is a great example of how Pell Grants can help our kids achieve their dreams, and I’m glad he’ll be joining me to help send a message to Washington: don’t cut Pell Grants,” Whitehouse said.

RIC President Nancy Carriuolo said the RIC community is “honored” that Senator Whitehouse selected Escobar to be his guest at the State of the Union address. Carriuolo, who was the guest of Rep. James Langevin at President Obama’s first State of the Union address, said that “being present in the gallery at this national address by our president is a memorable and humbling experience.”

The number of students receiving Pell Grants increased by 16 percent between school years 2009-10 and 2010-11, and the purchasing power of these grants has declined.

Travis Escobar and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse at a RIC forum last November.
Today, the maximum Pell grant covers 32 percent of the cost of four-year public university tuition – down from 72 percent in 1976.

Last year, $12.5 million in Pell funding was given to approximately 3,000 RIC students, accounting for about one-third of the student body.

Whitehouse has introduced a resolution to make it clear that the program should not be cut in any deficit reduction package.

“As the cost of higher education continues to skyrocket in our country, Pell Grants are now more vital than ever to Rhode Island families, and I’m committed to protecting this program from any attacks in Congress,” Whitehouse said.

Also attending the State of the Union address will be RIC alum Erin Kavanaugh Flynn ’82, who will be a guest of Congressman Jim Langevin. Flynn is a leader in Rhode Island educational initiatives designed to help build a skilled workforce.