Online Colleges in Rhode Island

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Updated November 10, 2021 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Students can enroll in Rhode Island college online classes to gain academic flexibility, earning their degrees while also fulfilling other work and family responsibilities. Distance education also comes with financial incentives, including affordable tuition rates and ample scholarship and grant opportunities. These benefits, combined with recent improvements in educational technology, make now a great time to pursue online academics; this trend is reflected in the growing number of students enrolling in distance programs.

Digital Learning Compass reports that Rhode Island houses 13 degree-granting higher education institutions, which collectively enrolled 82,292 students in the fall of 2015. Approximately 13% of these students were enrolled in at least one online class, and 2.1% pursued distance learning exclusively.

The following guide contains detailed academic information, including program options and costs, to help students find accredited online colleges in Rhode Island that match their budget and career goals. The guide also provides insights into the fastest-growing occupations in the state and information about how to apply for federal and private financial aid.

Job Outlook for Students With College Degrees in Rhode Island

Earning certificates and degrees through online colleges in Rhode Island can help individuals qualify for advanced career opportunities with higher salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), bachelor's degree holders earn a median salary of about $24,000 more per year than individuals who only hold a high school diploma. Higher education also strengthens job stability. The BLS reported that, in 2017, bachelor's degree holders enjoyed a lower unemployment rate (2.5%) than individuals who attended college but never finished (4.0%) as well as those who only graduated from high school (4.6%).

As of November 2018, Rhode Island's unemployment rate matched the U.S. average of 3.8%. Historic BLS data shows that this percentage represents a steady decrease for the state. One year prior the unemployment rate was 4.5%, and two years prior it was 4.8%. The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT) reports that Bristol County has the lowest unemployment rate (3.1%), while Providence County faces the highest (4.0%).

In May 2017, Rhode Island workers earned an average annual salary of $53,110 -- nearly $2,500 more than the national average. Healthcare professionals, such as dentists, anesthesiologists, and general practitioners, earned the highest salaries. Additionally, management professionals, including computer and information systems managers, earned an average income of $145,240 annually.

Unemployment Rate, August 2018

Rhode Island 3.8%
United States 3.8%

Source: BLS

Annual Mean Wage, May 2017

Rhode Island $53,110
United States $50,620

Source: BLS

Cost of Online Colleges in Rhode Island

Rhode Island students who attend two-year schools, including community, technical, and junior colleges, pay an average tuition of $4,560 per year. This price exceeds the national average by $900. Additionally, students who enroll at public, four-year institutions in Rhode Island pay about $12,530 per year, which is $2,300 more than the national average. Fortunately, the state government provides need-based grants and merit scholarships through organizations like the Rhode Island Foundation.

For Rhode Island college students, online classes and degrees typically cost about the same as on-campus programs. In both cases, two-year schools offer the most affordable tuition rates. By earning an associate degree and then transferring to a four-year program, students can minimize their overall academic expenses. Many community colleges facilitate direct transfer pathways to public universities.

Although distance learners often pay similar same tuition rates as on-campus students, online students often save on housing and transportation. According to CollegeBoard, on-campus students in the U.S. pay an average of $11,400 per year for room and board, which is more than the average cost of tuition. By living at home or in an area with a lower cost of living, online students can save more than $45,000 over the course of a four-year program. Additionally, distance learners rarely need to visit campus, which reduces transportation costs.

Average Price for In-State Tuition and Fees by Institution Type, 2018-19

  Public Two-Year Public Four-Year
Rhode Island $4,560 $12,530
U.S. Average $3,660 $10,230

Source: The College Board

In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition in Rhode Island

As the table below shows, both in-state and out-of-state students at Rhode Island colleges and universities pay more than the average U.S. student. Additionally, the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition rates at public institutions in Rhode Island is substantial. Nonresidents pay an average of $16,250 more than residents each year when attending public, four-year schools.

Luckily, the most affordable online colleges in Rhode Island charge all distance learners the same tuition rates, regardless of their state of residency. Also, out-of-state learners planning to attend school in Rhode Island can apply for residency status. However, this process necessitates careful planning, since candidates must first live and work full time in Rhode Island for six continuous months, in addition to meeting other requirements. Alternatively, out-of-state students may qualify for discounted tuition rates through the New England Board of Higher Education's Tuition Break initiative. This program ensures that students residing in the six partner states do not pay more than 175% of in-state rates when attending one of the 82 participating colleges and universities.

Average Tuition and Fees, 2018-19

  Public Two-Year Public Four-Year
Rhode Island $12,530 $28,780
U.S. Average $10,230 $26,290

Source: The College Board

Financial Aid in Rhode Island

Like on-campus students, distance learners can see whether they qualify for government funding by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The Department of Education offers the FAFSA form to help students apply for multiple grants, work-study opportunities, and low-interest loans simultaneously. Learners can also access financial planning information through the Federal Student Aid office to learn to efficiently budget for college and manage debt after graduation.

To qualify for federal aid, students must meet basic eligibility criteria, including U.S. citizenship or acceptable permanent resident status. This means DACA and other undocumented persons cannot receive federal student aid. Candidates must also prove financial need by submitting income tax documents and records of assets and untaxed earnings.

Federal awards include Federal Pell Grants for students who demonstrate exceptional financial need, Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants for students whose parent or guardian died during military service, and the TEACH Grants for future educators. Learners in some fields who borrow unsubsidized or subsidized government funds may qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation. For example, educators who agree to teach in a low-income, high-need school for five consecutive years can take advantage of the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. Rhode Island also operates a loan repayment program for health professionals, and students can find income-based repayment options through the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority.

State Grant Aid per Full-Time Equivalent Undergraduate Student, 2016-17

Rhode Island $150
U.S. Average $820

Source: The College Board

Scholarships and Grants for Rhode Island College Students

Beyond seeking out relatively affordable tuition rates and government funds, students can finance their education by applying for external scholarships. These awards often come from local businesses, religious institutions, nonprofit associations, and professional organizations. The list below describes 10 grants and scholarships available to students who attend accredited online colleges in Rhode Island.

Best Majors for Online Students in Rhode Island

According to the occupational outlook report put together by the Rhode Island DLT, the state is projected to add 30,400 jobs between 2016 and 2026, which equates to a 6% increase. Engineering and computer-related occupations are projected to grow the most, increasing by 10.5% and 12.3%, respectively. Within these two career groups, civil engineers and software developers have the fastest projected growth.

Like many states, Rhode Island suffers from nursing shortages, resulting in high demand for many professionals in the healthcare field. DLT projects 860 openings for registered nurses and 524 new jobs for nursing assistants from 2016-2026. Many Rhode Island colleges offer online degrees in this area, such as accelerated RN-to-BSN tracks that enable working nurses to complete a bachelor's degree within two years.

DLT also projects job growth for skilled labor and trade positions, including carpenters, welders, electricians, and material movers. Construction and extraction occupations are projected to increase by 14% between 2016 and 2026. Many community and technical colleges in Rhode Island provide associate degrees, professional training, and apprenticeship programs in these industries.

Software Engineering

Students who major in software engineering gain practical skills related to product development. Programs cover the entire software project life cycle, from conception and design to testing and manufacturing. The positions of applications software developer and systems software developer both rank among the fastest-growing occupations in Rhode Island.


To practice in Rhode Island, registered nurses need an associate or bachelor's degree. After gaining additional work experience, professionals can also pursue a master of science in nursing. MSN programs emphasize leadership training and enable students to specialize in high-need areas, such as midwifery or anesthesiology. Nurses with an MSN can apply for advance licenses and endorsements.

Business Administration

One of the most popular college majors in the U.S., business administration prepares students for careers in fields such as accounting, operations analysis, digital marketing, and quality assurance. Management positions in Rhode Island are projected to increase by 8% between 2016 and 2026, and business professionals often need a master's degree to qualify for these leadership roles.

Resources for Online College Students in Rhode Island

Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner: RIOPC works to improve economic development and higher educational attainment in the state. Through the office's website, students can explore school options and financial aid resources. RIOPC partners with other government agencies to fund the Graduate! RI initiative, which helps working adults finish their degrees. For students with prior college work, RIOPC provides transfer options to the state's public institutions.

Rhode Island Student Loan Authority: Established in 1981, RISLA is a nonprofit quasi-governmental organization that delivers low-interest students loans and repayment options. The authority offers college admission guidance to help students find schools, prepare for standardized tests, and write personal essays. RISLA maintains a comprehensive scholarship database. Additionally, users can search for internships and jobs through RISLA.

Community College of Rhode Island: In addition to offering affordable online classes, CCRI helps students learn English and obtain GED certificates through its RI-BEST and Bridge to Best programs. The college also helps students find internships and plan for their future careers. CCRI delivers workforce programs that provide job training in fields including plumbing, maritime pipefitting, and nursing.

Distance Education Accrediting Commission: In addition to national or regional accreditation, online colleges in Rhode Island can obtain DEAC approval. This commission offers student resources, including financial aid opportunities, credit transfer guidance, and military service benefits. DEAC also sponsors an honor society -- Delta Epsilon Tau -- that organizes scholarships and student conferences.

New England Board of Higher Education: NEBHE facilitates research initiatives and collaborative teacher training programs between its six member states. New England residents can access generous tuition breaks when attending a participating out-of-state school. The board offers scholarships for international study trips to various locations, including Quebec, Nova Scotia, and China. Users can also view job listings and professional development opportunities.


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Latest Posts is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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