- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed March 2, 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2014-15, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, accessed March 2, 2016, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages, accessed June 16, 2017: About RIC, Rhode Island College , http://www.ric.edu/aboutric/Pages/default.aspx; Online Programs/Certificates, University of Rhode Island, http://web.uri.edu/online/online-programscertificates/; About, Brown University, https://www.brown.edu/about; About Salve Regina, Salve Regina University, http://www.salve.edu/about-salve; Academic Programs, RWU School of Continuing Studies, Roger Williams University, https://scs.rwu.edu/academic-programs; Fast Facts, Providence College, http://www.providence.edu/about/fast-facts; About JWU, Johnson & Wales University, https://www.jwu.edu/about/; Online Undergraduate & Bachelor Degree Programs, Johnson & Wales University, https://online.jwu.edu/academics/undergraduate; At a Glance, Bryant University, http://www.bryant.edu/about/at-a-glance/; About, Rhode Island School of Design, http://www.risd.edu/about/;
- RI Promise, Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, accessed May 13, 2017, https://www.riopc.edu/page/ri_promise/
- Army National Guard Benefits, Rhode Island Army National Guard, accessed May 13, 2017, http://www.riarmynationalguard.com/free-college/
- Paul Sherlock Scholarship, Rhode Island Student Loan Authority, accessed May 13, 2017, https://www.risla.com/paul-sherlock-scholarship
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
Rhode Island is the smallest state in the U.S., but the educational opportunities are many and diverse. From the hallowed halls of the Ivy League to regional public institutions, the colleges and universities in the Ocean State offer something for just about everyone.
We wanted to help students sort out which schools were the best traditional and online colleges in Rhode Island, so we gathered data on each institution and did a detailed analysis. We also provided some information on job market projections for regional graduates, financial aid options exclusive to Rhode Island residents and the most popular degree programs for in-state students.
If you attend the Community College of Rhode Island, you may be able to neatly transfer your associate degree credits into a bachelor's program at one of the state's four-year schools. We've included a link to CCRI's transfer agreements at the bottom of the page, and you can check with your advisor for more details.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Rhode Island
Here they are: the best traditional and online colleges in Rhode Island, based on their aggregate score. For information about our 13-point ranking methodology and the U.S. Department of Education sources we consulted, select the button below.
Affordability was the primary factor that put this medium-sized Providence school over the top for our No. 1 spot overall. Rhode Island College was home to the lowest raw cost of tuition and fees in the state by a considerable amount, and it also took top marks in a more comprehensive measure of college cost.
Average net price is a metric designed to calculate an estimate for the out-of-pocket cost of college — including meals, housing, books and other necessities on top of tuition and fees — which takes into account the expected amount of institutional grant aid per student. RIC took the No. 1 and No. 2 rankings, respectively, for the average net price charged to middle- and low-income students in 2015.
The largest institution in the state by a long shot comes in at No. 2, thanks to its high rankings on student access and affordability metrics. The University of Rhode Island's performance came in second in the raw tuition cost category, and its average net price figures for middle- and low-income students placed at No. 2 and No. 3 respectively.
The Kingston school provides students with the second-largest catalog of academic degrees in the state. And students who are looking for the flexibility of distance education can choose among over 100 courses taught in the virtual classroom. In fact, more than 35 percent of URI students took at least one online class in 2015. Working registered nurses seem to be taking advantage of URI's fully online Bachelor of Science in Nursing program — the school awarded more B.S.N. degrees in 2015 than in any other major.
Rhode Island's outpost of the Ivy League takes the No. 3 spot, partially on the strength of some elite student success statistics. Brown University's rates of graduation and first-year student retention both ranked No. 1 in Rhode Island in 2015-16, and its position on both metrics fell in the 99th percentile of all 1,649 schools we analyzed.
Out of all the schools in the state, Brown's students have the widest variety of options when it comes to selecting a course of study. The school's 214 different degree programs gave it the No. 1 ranking for that metric.
Students at Brown had the state's highest proportion of their tuition covered by institutional grants: the average net price for low- and middle-income students at the school ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in the state.
This small, private Catholic institution features one of the lowest average costs for books and supplies in the state. The other affordability numbers for Salve Regina University matched its overall ranking fairly closely — it came in at No. 4 for its proportion of institutional grant aid awarded, its average net price for low-income students and the median college debt of its graduates.
Salve Regina was also one of the top online colleges for Rhode Island students, featuring the state's second-largest online catalog and taking the No. 2 spot for distance education enrollment. Alumni of the Newport school also managed to unburden themselves of student loan debt with limited difficulty, according to the U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard. More than 90 percent of Salve Regina graduates reported being able to pay off their loan balances within three years of leaving school.
Roger Williams University was the top destination for students seeking an online bachelor's degree program in Rhode Island in 2015-16, according to NCES numbers. No other school in the state offered a larger distance education degree catalog than this Providence institution, which offers online or hybrid programs in such subjects as community development, cybersecurity, public administration, criminal justice and the social sciences.
Flexibility measures for non-traditional students seeking an on-campus or hybrid education are available here as well, including degree plans that can be completed entirely in evenings and on weekends and options to turn life experience into college credit. RWU also tied for the top spot in average affordability of books and supplies.
The third Providence-based school on our list is a private Catholic and Dominican college that celebrated the centennial of its founding in 2017. Providence College posted the No. 3 graduation rate in the state in 2015-16 and features seven out of the ten on-campus flexibility measures we looked for, including tuition payment plans, credit for life experiences and placement services for graduates.
Average net price figures for low- and middle-income students ranked No. 5 and No. 6 in the state, respectively; just two other schools in the state charged students less on average for necessary books and supplies. While Providence College's marketing program was the most popular one on campus, in terms of the number of awarded bachelor's degrees, students interested in subjects still have 99 additional degree programs from which to choose.
The Providence campus of this private, multi-state institution offers Rhode Island's No. 3 most affordable tuition and fees cost and ranks No. 4 and No. 6, respectively, in the average net price categories for middle- and low-income students. JWU Providence focuses on campus-based flexibility for its students as well, featuring eight of the ten such initiatives included our analysis.
The Johnson & Wales University system also features an extensive online campus. Undergraduate students can choose among more than 20 Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (B.S.B.A.) degree plans. Major subjects for online study include culinary arts, health science, advertising and marketing, hospitality management, international business and more.
Bryant University ranked No. 3 in the state for its percentage of first-year students returning to continue their degree plans at the sophomore level, and just three other schools in Rhode Island posted higher graduation rates in 2015-16. This private Smithfield institution, founded in 1863, also ranked No. 6 in the state for the raw costs of its tuition, fees, books and supplies.
Graduates of Bryant reportedly had considerable success in managing their student debt, as well. More than 90 percent of recent alumni were able to eliminate their student loans within 36 months of finishing their degree programs, according to College Scorecard — good for the No. 3 rank statewide on that metric.
Rounding out the list at No. 9 is the Rhode Island School of Design, a small private arts college in Providence. The graduation and retention rates at RISD (pronounced RIZ-dee) were each No. 2 in the state and fell just outside the top 50 of all 1,649 schools we surveyed nationwide. Rhode Island's second-highest average tuition and fees cost can be found here, but just four other schools in the state covered a larger percentage of tuition with institutional grant aid.
RISD alumni had a three-year student loan repayment rate that was No. 1 in the state and No. 50 nationwide. Despite carrying a median college debt load that landed above the state average, more than 92 percent of RISD grads paid off their loan balances within three years.
Most Popular Degree Programs in Rhode Island
Whether you're hoping to pick a major that's common among students in your state or stay away from the most crowded parts of the academic landscape, it can help to know which study plans are the most popular. Here's a list of the top degree programs by enrollment in Rhode Island.
In-Demand Careers in Rhode Island
Certain career fields are expected to see significantly more growth than others in the coming years, according to employment projections by state and national statistical agencies. Check out this rundown of top careers in the state and see if one matches up with the degree you're planning to pursue.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers||39.4%||1,530||$42,410|
|Operations Research Analysts||37%||460||-|
|Painters, Transportation Equipment||32.7%||360||$44,840|
|Information Security Analysts||31.7%||340||$103,280|
|Fiberglass Laminators and Fabricators||30.9%||100||$32,850|
|Insulation Workers, Mechanical||27.3%||-||$78,560|
|Software Developers, Applications||26.5%||2,180||$92,310|
|Septic Tank Servicers and Sewer Pipe Cleaners||26.5%||90||$38,910|
|Interpreters and Translators||26.4%||90||$52,880|
|Sheet Metal Workers||26.1%||500||$52,050|
|Software Developers, Systems Software||24.6%||1,110||$108,820|
|Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic||23.7%||70||$51,160|
|Computer Systems Analysts||23.6%||1,820||$93,500|
|Computer and Information Systems Managers||23.4%||1,160||$141,240|
|Industrial Machinery Mechanics||23.1%||570||$52,140|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||22.9%||340||$55,050|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||22.5%||1,520||$68,920|
|Physical Therapist Aides||22.2%||270||$26,890|
|Brickmasons and Blockmasons||21.5%||-||$66,850|
|Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and Plastic||21.5%||430||$37,650|
|Extruding, Forming, Pressing, and Compacting Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders||21.2%||130||$39,430|
|Helpers--Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||20.4%||220||$29,360|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Rhode Island
Rhode Island residents can take advantage of several exclusive state-funded aid programs, such as the RI Promise program, which pays tuition and fees for four semesters of full-time study for high school graduates at participating state institutions, regardless of family income. The State Tuition Assistance Program (STAP) pays up to five courses worth of tuition per semester for members of the Rhode Island National Guard enrolled at three RI state institutions. And the Paul Sherlock Scholarship awards aid to qualifying Rhode Island residents whose expected family contribution (EFC) is calculated to be below $12,800.
November 15 (Early Action admissions deadline)
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.25 GPA and full-time status.
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.6 GPA.
- Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner
- Prepare Rhode Island Dual Enrollment Fund
- Graduate! Rhode Island
- Rhode Island Student Loan Authority
- Community College of Rhode Island Transfer Agreements