Best Rhode Island Colleges & Universities

Become Team
Become Team
September 22, 2021

Although it is one of the smallest states in the country, Rhode Island has a strong higher education system. Students can select from a range of institutions-from public two-year community colleges to an Ivy League university. To assist students in their college planning process, we have developed a series of resources, including a list of the top colleges in the state, information about what it really costs to earn a college degree and individual profiles of major educational hubs in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island College Leaderboard: Rankings

Brown University is regarded as one of the best postsecondary institutions in Rhode Island, let alone the country. However, the state is also home to numerous colleges and universities that offer quality and highly rated academic programs. Prospective students can refer to the rankings below to learn more about the best universities and colleges in Rhode Island, ranked by quality indicators like graduation rates, tuition and student-to-teacher ratios.

Rankings Methodology Minimum Qualifications
  • Located in Rhode Island
  • Public or private not-for-profit
  • Institutionally accredited
  • At least 10 total programs
Ranking Metrics
  • Median annual alumni earnings 10 years after entering the college
  • In-state tuition and fees for undergraduates
  • Student/teacher ratio
  • 6-year graduation rate
  • % of students receiving institutional financial aid (first-time, full-time undergrads)
  • Average amount of institutional aid awarded per student (first-time, full-time undergrads)
  • Availability of placement services upon completion
  • Availability of academic/career counseling services
  • Availability of employment services
  • 3-year student cohort loan default rate
Data Sources

Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS): National Center for Education Statistics

Latest 'Final Release' data available as of Fall 2016 College Scorecard: U.S. Department of Education

2-Year Programs

Community College of Rhode Island View School Profile $ 13% 86 $29,100 18:1 6% N/A 0 83 Yes Yes

4-Year Programs

Brown University View School Profile $$$$ 95% 99.67 $59,700 9:1 46% 9% 0 155 Yes No
Providence College View School Profile $$$$ 87% 98.03 $59,600 12:1 78% 63% 0 77 Yes Yes
Salve Regina University View School Profile $$$$ 72% 97.04 $48,300 13:1 97% 71% 6 50 Yes Yes
Bryant University View School Profile $$$$ 80% 96.47 $61,900 14:1 90% 75% 0 38 Yes Yes
University of Rhode Island View School Profile $$ 63% 94.48 $48,200 17:1 83% 77% 1 138 Yes No
Roger Williams University View School Profile $$$$ 61% 91.3 $47,200 15:1 89% 78% 15 88 Yes Yes
Rhode Island School of Design View School Profile $$$$ 86% 90.55 $47,300 10:1 36% 33% 0 32 Yes No
Rhode Island College View School Profile $ 43% 89 $39,600 15:1 37% 65% 0 115 Yes No
Johnson & Wales University-Providence View School Profile $$$$ 53% 88.37 $35,100 24:1 98% 81% 2 46 Yes Yes
New England Institute of Technology View School Profile $$$ N/A 86 $38,800 13:1 73% N/A 1 16 Yes Yes

Explore and Research Rhode Island Colleges

From the small technical college to the private liberal arts school, from public four-year universities to career-focused community colleges, Rhode Island offers prospective students a wealth of postsecondary options. Prospective students interested in colleges in Rhode Island can use the search tool below to compare institutions based on criteria such as acceptance rates, location, student enrollment and annual tuition.

College Outreach Programs in Rhode Island

Regardless of a student's academic goals and degree path, they should start the planning process as soon as possible. To assist students in this process, statewide programs have been launched to help students find the right academic program, navigate the application process, and learn about and access financial aid. Below are three examples of these programs.

College Planning Center of Rhode Island

Sponsored by the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority, the College Planning Center of Rhode Island helps students conduct college searches and guides them through the college admissions process. Students can receive assistance by completing admissions and financial aid packages, finding and submitting scholarship applications, and speaking individually to a college planning advisor. These resources are completely free of charge, providing students and their parents with real-world support on practical college planning issues.

Rhode Island Promise Initiative

Administered by the Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, the Rhode Island Promise Initiative is a statewide scholarship program. As a needs-based scholarship, this funding helps students cover the difference between their cost of attendance and financial aid packages. With $10 million in state funding, over 6,000 Rhode Island scholars received scholarships in 2015. The award maximum is $4,000, but amounts vary based on a student's level of financial need and the individual institution's policies.

College Goal Rhode Island

College Goal Rhode Island is an online resource created by the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority. With a focus on financial aid, the site offers free college planning resources, including end-to-end support of finding and applying for financial aid. The program hosts events throughout the state that are staffed by financial aid professionals. Students and their parents can receive step-by-step assistance with filling out financial aid applications and can have their questions answered about the financial aid process.

Cost of College in Rhode Island

It can be costly to attend college in Rhode Island according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In-state tuition can easily surpass $18,000, which means students should have a solid understanding of tuition rates at each institution they are considering to attend. The charts below offer an inside look at tuition rates and financial aid packages for Rhode Island colleges and how they compare to national averages.

Source: CollegeBoard

Source: IPEDS

Source: IPEDS

* Institutional aid represents grant and scholarship funds directly awarded by a postsecondary institution.

* Financial aid data represents 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Rhode Island's Most Affordable Colleges

While looking at tuition rates can lead to sticker shock, Rhode Island colleges make efforts to ensure students can afford higher education. We have created a list of the most affordable colleges in Rhode Island based on their total cost of attendance-tuition and financial aid packages.

Pennsylvania College Grad Debt Vs. National Average

Median Federal Student
Loan Debt After Graduation

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Rhode Island Colleges for Best Post-Grad Earnings

As prospective students consider which school to attend, they should keep an eye on their potential return on investment; that is, how much they potentially can earn in their career path after graduation. Learn more about how colleges in Rhode Island rank against national averages and compare their 10-year alumni salaries.

Pennsylvania College Grad Debt Vs. National Average

Median Federal Student
Loan Debt After Graduation

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Best Rhode Island Colleges for Low Student Loan Debt

With an average post-graduate debt totaling more than $31,000, prospective students should have a realistic understanding of what their investment will cost. After reviewing tuition and graduation data, we have created a list of the most affordable colleges in the state that graduate students with the least amount of student debt.

Pennsylvania College Grad Debt Vs. National Average

Median Federal Student
Loan Debt After Graduation

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Rhode Island Cost of Living: City Comparison

When thinking about how to pay for college, many students focus on the bottom line: tuition. However, students should also include living expenses as Rhode Island is an expensive state. In fact, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center found it is the ninth most expensive state to live in. Prospective students can use the tables below to review the real costs of living and attending school in metropolitan areas in the state and how those areas measure against national averages.

area composite index housing groceries utilities transportation health care misc.
Statewide Average 123% 136% 114% 130% 106% 113% 119%
Providence 123% 136% 114% 130% 106% 113% 119%

Source: The Council for Community and Economic Research

Accreditation for Rhode Island Colleges

Academic programs, tuition, faculty, student services, athletics, clubs-these are just a handful of things students and parents consider when reviewing schools. However, one major overlooked factor is accreditation. Accreditation is an overall measure of a college and university's commitment to recognized academic standards. Attending a non-accredited institution could hinder a student's future plans for graduate school or limit where they can transfer their credits in the future.

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. is the primary regional accrediting body for Rhode Island colleges. Additionally, individual degree programs must also submit to programmatic accreditation review. Below are two examples of program-based accrediting bodies.

Rhode Island Cities with a Large College Presence

College Name School Type Annual Net Price Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After College

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

KingstonUniversity of Rhode Island Public $18,179 $48,200
A small village, Kingston has a past that can be traced to the Colonial founding of the United States. The center of the village is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Although only 6,900 residents live in Kingston, its overall population swells in size because the state's system of higher education focal point is there-the University of Rhode Island. With more than 69 percent of its population holding a bachelor's degree, according to the US Census Bureau, Kingston is a town that clearly supports higher education.

The capital of Rhode Island, Providence, is the largest city in the state, home to nearly 180,000 residents. It is the educational epicenter of Rhode Island with eight public and private universities and colleges. According to the US Census Bureau, 28.6 percent of the population 25 years or older have a bachelor's degree. Those institutions add to the educated population by preparing students to join growing industries throughout the Boston-Washington corridor, including healthcare, technology, and research and development.

College Name School Type Annual Net Price Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After College

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

ProvidenceBrown University Private not-for-profit $25,005 $59,700
As one of the country's oldest universities, Brown University was founded in 1764. A member of the IVY League, Brown University is a private research institution with an enrollment of 6,200 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students and 490 medical students. The university employs more than 700 faculty members and has 70 undergraduate majors, 28 master majors and 51 doctoral programs of study.
ProvidenceRhode Island College Public $9,938 $39,600
A state college, Rhode Island College was founded in 1854. Offering a 180-acre public regional campus, the college has 9,000 students enrolled across undergraduate and graduate programs of study. There are about 120 academic majors throughout the five schools of study, including arts and sciences, education and human development, social work, management, and nursing. On average, there are 21 students in each class and 375 full-time faculty members are employed at the college.
ProvidenceRhode Island School of Design Private not-for-profit $40,306 $47,300
Founded in 1877, the Rhode Island School of Design is one of the country's oldest fine arts and design colleges. A private institution, the school has an enrollment of 2,300 students. It offers bachelor's and master's degree programs in 19 major areas of study, including architecture, design, fine arts and art education. Students can leverage an enrollment agreement with Brown University to complete course requirements in liberal arts.

Source: College Scorecard

Rhode Island College Resources for Further Research

When starting the college planning process, students may need additional assistance and resources. The list of organizations below provides a variety of information, including financial aid, preparing for college and scholarships.

Division of Higher Education Assistance (DHEA)

Formerly known as the Rhode Island Higher Education Assistance Authority, the DHEA provides students assistance throughout the college planning process.

Rhode Island Association of Admission Officers (RIAAO)

Founded in 1976, RIAAO is an organization of university professionals working in admissions and enrollment. This organization holds an annual college fair, provides scholarships and offers additional support resources.

Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education

The board coordinates system-wide educational planning for the state, working as the administrative arm for accreditation, legislative policies and academic quality.

Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner

This state's executive office works to improve student access to higher education and provides a range of student support services, including information about individual colleges, financial aid resources and credit transfer assistance.

Rhode Island Student Loan Authority

This nonprofit organization was founded in 1981 and provides state-based education loans, financial aid planning assistance and admissions counseling to students throughout the state.

Way to Go Rhode Island

A program sponsored by the Rhode Island Higher Education Assistance Authority, Way to Go Rhode Island is a comprehensive online resource for students that offers career planning, college planning and financial aid planning resources.

Become Team
Become Team
Contributing Writer