PROVIDENCE — Community College of Rhode Island President Meghan L. Hughes, who led the charge to make the two-year college free for all new high school graduates and has transformed the institution into a vital component of the state’s workforce development effort, is stepping down from her post after seven years of the job.
In a statement, Hughes confirmed she will step down effective Aug. 31. She is not planning to run for Congress in the First District, where she lives.
“Serving as CCRI’s president has been the greatest professional honor of my lifetime, and I am profoundly grateful to all the faculty, staff, students, and broader Rhode Island community members who have taught me so much and who continue to inspire me daily,” Hughes said. “I believe the time is right to transition the college to new presidential leadership by summer’s end as CCRI is strong and continuing to grow ever stronger.”
Hughes said the college has largely recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic, and “we are laser focused on supporting strong student learning outcomes.”
Hughes, a Yale graduate who earned a doctorate from New York University, took the helm at CCRI in 2016 after leading the Year Up program in Providence. She was considered one of former governor Gina Raimondo’s most trusted allies, and strongly supported Raimondo’s Rhode Island Promise program that made community college free for all new high school graduates.
She currently serves chairwoman of the board for the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce and is member of the board at the Rhode Island Foundation. She was also recently named to the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
Hughes has clashed at times with the unions that represent CCRI, but she is also widely credited with helping the college better prepare its students for the workforce. She has developed partnerships with Electric Boat and offshore wind companies to hire graduates in those emerging fields.
She has also worked to improve the transfer system at the college so students have a smooth path to attain a four-year degree, although she has acknowledged that the process has moved slower than she wanted.
She’ll likely be best remembered for the free college program, which led to a spike in enrollment – particularly among students of color. She also launched an ambitious campaign to help CCRI raise $25 million by 2025 for its endowment.
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