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A seismic shift for public higher education in Rhode Island

The new entrance to the Community College of Rhode Island's Knight Campus in Warwick.Photo courtesy of CCRI

Two of Rhode Island’s three public colleges are about to begin searches for new presidents.

We already knew that Rhode Island College is about to enter Year 2 of interim President Jack Warner’s tenure, but Community College of Rhode Island President Meghan Hughes surprised even some of her closest allies Thursday when she announced that her final day on the job will be Aug. 31.

Hughes is widely credited with helping Rhode Island become one of the first states in the country to offer two years of free community college to all R.I. high school graduates and for building significant partnerships with Electric Boat and the offshore wind industry to connect more students to job opportunities.


She is also beloved within the business community – as one CEO texted me yesterday, “she gets [stuff] done” – and is currently president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.

It’s unclear what Hughes has planned next, although she has ruled out a run for Congress in the First District. In an e-mail to colleagues after the news broke, Hughes said she wants to “spend a few months dedicating my time to my family, especially my mother.”

Hughes said the state Council on Postsecondary Education will name an interim president in the coming days.

Postsecondary Commissioner Shannon Gilkey and Council Chairman David Caprio now have their hands full because they’re also searching for a president for RIC.

Warner was named interim president last year after Frank Sanchez announced that he wouldn’t seek another term leading the four-year college. Warner’s contract has been extended until June 30, 2024.

The postsecondary office currently has an RFP out for an executive search firm to begin the process of finding a permanent president. Responses are due by March 21.

It’s unclear if RIC or CCRI will have new presidents in place by the time fall classes begin.


This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.

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