Best Community Colleges in Rhode Island

There may not be many places in the Ocean State where you can earn an associate degree before starting a new career or transferring into one of the bachelor's programs at Rhode Island universities, but attending the best programs at community colleges in Rhode Island can help you make the right move for your future nonetheless.

We put together a database using statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to help figure out where the best Rhode Island community colleges fall compared to other two-year schools in the U.S. When the dust settled, the list of best community colleges in Rhode Island contained just one name. Read on to learn about the degree program offerings and other amenities at the Community College of Rhode Island and find out what qualifies it to stand alone at the top of our list.



Community College of Rhode Island (Warwick)

Originally founded as Rhode Island Junior College, Community College of Rhode Island opened its doors to its first class of students in 1964. The institution was popular right away — that first year's enrollment surpassed the initial expectation by more than 60 percent.

The main campus in Warwick, which opened in 1972, admitted close to 3,000 students its first year. More campuses continued to pop up all over the state, and today the institution is the largest community college in New England and maintains outposts in Newport, Lincoln, Providence and Westerly.

A total of more than 14,000 students enroll at CCRI each semester, but you're not likely to feel like an anonymous face in the crowd. The student-faculty ratio here is a comfortable 17:1, and 70 percent of students attend classes on a part-time basis.

More than 120 degree and certificate programs are available from CCRI's 23 academic departments, including common college majors like biology, art, physics, chemistry and English. The range of allied health programs includes diagnostic medical sonography and respiratory therapy. Those looking for online study can find a general business program that can be earned entirely in the virtual classroom.

CTE in Rhode Island

Career technical education (CTE) classes and degrees can help Rhode Island residents train for careers in emerging fields while also building an academic portfolio that can allow you to continue your education at a higher level in the future. CTE programs in Rhode Island are offered at the high school and collegiate levels, and they've produced some strong results so far for students in the state.

The graduation rate for high school students who concentrate their efforts on CTE studies in Rhode Island is 90 percent, and 78 percent of CTE college students finish their programs and graduate with a degree, diploma or certificate. After graduating, 77 percent of those college students go on to find jobs, begin apprenticeship programs or enter military service within six months.

If you're interested in learning more about CTE in Rhode Island, here are a few informative resources that can help:

  • The Rhode Island Department of Education's career and technical education page provides detailed information about the state's approach to CTE and its list of approved programs.
  • PrepareRI, a career readiness initiative established in the state in 2016, provides further information and links to CTE resources for students, schools and businesses.
  • The New England Institute of Technology, a private, nonprofit technical school in the state, offers a thorough list of CTE programs in Rhode Island at the college level.

Career technical education programs for college students are offered through CCRI as well as a handful of private two-year schools around the state. Each institution offers its own selection of study plans, so be sure to learn what you can about the offerings at a given school before enrolling.

Transferring Credits in Rhode Island

CCRI is the only public community college in the state, so many of the top four-year schools in Rhode Island and throughout New England have entered into transfer agreements that make it easier for CCRI graduates to transfer into their bachelor's programs. Also called articulation agreements, there are more than 70 such arrangements in place for CCRI students.

Most transfer agreements in Rhode Island result in students entering their university programs with junior status and facilitate the smooth transfer of eligible credits earned during associate degree work. It's important to note, though, that the transfer of courses isn't automatic even when covered under a transfer agreement, so you'll need to stay informed and take responsibility for your own transfer process.

Officials at both CCRI and your destination school can help keep you pointed in the right direction, so make sure to meet with a counselor in your first semester to start the process off right. Read about the top universities in Rhode Island to learn about some of the in-state transfer destinations available to you, and look over our college transfer guide for additional information about transfer agreements and tips for helping your transfer go smoothly.

Resources for Community College Students in Rhode Island

  • The Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner offers information about CCRI and the state's pair of public four-year institutions.
  • The scholarships section of the Rhode Island Department of Education page can clue you in to some financial aid opportunities for both academic and career-focused students.
  • netWORKri, Rhode Island's statewide career center system, can help you find career workshops, recruitment events and employment advising services through its four statewide locations.


Using the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we generated a list of colleges and universities that met the following criteria:

  • Level of institution is either "At least 2 but less than 4 years" or " Less than 2 years (below associate)"
  • Data is reported for all 14 ranking variables listed in the Methodology section

We ranked the resulting community colleges member schools on multiple factors related to educational opportunity, student performance and student services. Each school was scored on a 10-point scale, using the following data points:

  1. The published in-district tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
  2. The published in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
  3. The in-district per credit hour charge for part-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
  4. The in-state per credit hour charge for part-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
  5. Percentage of students receiving financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  6. Percent of students that transferred to a 4-year institution and completed within 8 years, College Scorecard, 2017
  7. The graduation rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
  8. Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2017
  9. Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2017
  10. Percentage of students enrolled in distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
  11. Flexibility, based on the following data points from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
  • Whether the school offers credit for life experiences
  • Whether the school offers programs of study that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
  • Whether the school offers on-campus day care for students' children
  • Whether the school offers any kind of alternative tuition plan. These may include, but aren't limited to, payment plans or guaranteed rates.
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