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RI EDUCATION

State cancels $76,000-a-week consultant’s contract at Rhode Island College

Lawmakers questioned the need for the consultant and why the agreement never went out to bid

Entry sign for Rhode Island College in Providence, R.I.
Entry sign for Rhode Island College in Providence, R.I.Kenneth C. Zirkel via Wikimedia Commons

PROVIDENCE – The state is canceling a $76,000-a-week consultant’s contract to review Rhode Island College after state lawmakers questioned the need for the agreement and why it never went out to bid.

Alvarez & Marsal was hired on Dec. 14 and its contract was expected to run until Feb. 28, but the state Council on Postsecondary Education, the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner and the Department of Administration announced that it will end Thursday.

The Globe first reported on the contract on Monday, and a group of House lawmakers vowed to haul officials at Rhode Island College before the Oversight Committee to learn more about the deal.

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The New York-based firm, which has worked with several other departments in state government, was tasked with supplying “actionable recommendations to improve the overall operations of the college as well as the basis of a sustainable budget proposal and assist with its internal review and analysis” for the 2021-’22 fiscal year budget and beyond, according to Robert Dulski, a spokesman for the Department of Administration.

“Now that incoming Governor [Dan] McKee will be responsible for the upcoming FY 2022 budget proposal, we will cancel this contract tomorrow with Alvarez & Marsal,” Dulski said. “The firm will provide a report on the work it completed and any preliminary findings reached.”

The college has faced annual budget deficits for several years, and in August it announced that it was facing a $10.4 million shortfall. The school, which has an annual tuition of $10,260 for the current school year, slashed executives’ pay, laid off workers, and kept several dozen vacant positions unfilled.

“While RIC took bold action that affected every aspect of the college in an effort to manage its budget issues, it was also waiting on additional relief from the federal government,” Dulski said. “Rather than putting the financial burden on students, many of whom have been adversely impacted by the COVID pandemic, there was an identified solution to hire consultants with expertise in this very situation, to assist RIC in its internal review of programs, departments, processes and analysis, and in its efforts to address its near term and long term budget issues.”

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Alvarez & Marsal was expected to offer a more thorough overview of the state of Rhode Island College, and the firm was likely to make a recommendation to significantly scale back some of the college’s degree offerings to focus on programs preferred by most students.

It’s unclear how much of the review was completed considering the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.


Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.