Best Colleges in Rhode Island

The higher education experts at reviewed the top 4-year colleges in the state of Rhode Island. Start planning your future today.
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Updated on July 6, 2023
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More young people are enrolling in college every year, with the understanding that earning a college degree plays a critical role in entering many high-paying careers. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the undergraduate student population in the U.S. will increase from 16.8 million in 2017 to 17.2 million by 2028.

In addition to quality colleges and universities, Rhode Island boasts a robust economy with ample career opportunities in growing sectors like advanced manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, and education. The healthcare industry is another major employer, with over 67,200 workers in the state in 2019. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, as of November 2019, Rhode Island's unemployment rate sat at 3.5%, slightly below the national average.

Top 5 Colleges in Rhode Island

  1. Brown University - Providence, RI
  2. Providence College - Providence, RI
  3. Bryant University - Smithfield, RI
  4. University of Rhode Island - Kingston, RI
  5. Salve Regina University - Newport, RI

While conducting research into potential postsecondary schools can be overwhelming, this guide can assist your search by providing information about the five best colleges in Rhode Island.

The following rankings consider crucial factors such as programmatic accreditation, tuition prices, financial aid availability, and retention and graduation rates. Each profile details things such as degree offerings, online learning options, and students services. You can also gain insight on the application process.

If a school interests you, do not hesitate to contact the institution's admissions specialists. These counselors can help you navigate enrollment and find scholarships.

Best Accredited Colleges in Rhode Island

Best Colleges in Rhode Island

  1. Brown University

    Providence, RI



    Established in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest postsecondary school in the United States. A private, Ivy League research institution, Brown offers 80 undergraduate concentrations and 84 graduate programs.

    Freshmen applicants undergo a rigorous admissions process that requires official transcripts, three recommendation letters, and ACT/SAT scores. The university recommends that candidates also provide results from two SAT subject tests.

    Through the Brown Promise, all students receive a generous financial aid package that covers 100% of their demonstrated need with scholarships and work-study awards.

    Undergraduate learners benefit from an open curriculum model that allows them to choose courses that align with their interests as long as they fulfill two specific requirements. First, candidates must take 30 courses in eight semesters. Second, they need to complete at least one concentration.

    Graduate programs operate under more conventional degree models. Options include biotechnology, cybersecurity, comparative literature, and global public health. Students can also enroll in a dual-degree program to earn both a master of science and a doctor of medicine in population health.

  2. Providence College

    Providence, RI



    A private liberal arts institution, Providence College serves over 4,800 students annually. PC offers a variety of financial aid opportunities, including the Roddy Scholarship for candidates pursuing medical professions.

    Students pick from 48 undergraduate majors and 14 graduate programs. Bachelor's options include business innovation, health policy and management, Latin American studies, and film. PC also delivers a comprehensive optometry program that enables incoming freshmen to earn a doctorate in optometry in seven years.

    At the graduate level, programs cover fields like urban teaching, biblical studies, and school counseling. Learners may also pursue a master of business administration, with options for part-time and full-time enrollment as well as a dual-degree track and a cohort accounting program.

    The school uses a holistic applicant evaluation process that considers academic performance (including curricular rigor), standardized test results, and extracurricular achievements centered on leadership. Transfer candidates need a minimum 3.0 GPA.

  3. Bryant University

    Smithfield, RI



    Located in Smithfield, Bryant University focuses on delivering affordable and student-centric academics.

    The school's undergraduate catalog contains bachelor's degrees in social entrepreneurship, global supply chain management, Africana and Black studies, and legal studies. Learners can also enroll in a marketing analytics program, which trains them to analyze market, product, and consumer data to drive organizational decision-making and innovation. To help students diversify their studies, Bryant requires all business majors to complete at least one liberal arts minor.

    Graduate offerings include master's programs in communication, professional accountancy, and physician assisting. The university also offers a campus-based master of business administration that students can earn in one or two years. Alternatively, MBA candidates may obtain their credentials entirely online through a professional track that features five start dates annually.

    Bryant uses a test-optional policy that allows freshmen applicants to decide whether SAT/ACT performance accurately reflects their academic potential. Graduate admission requirements vary by program but generally include a minimum 3.0 GPA. The university automatically considers all admitted students for scholarships.

  4. University of Rhode Island

    Kingston, RI



    The University of Rhode Island is based in Kingston as the state's flagship institution for public research and higher education. Through eight colleges, URI delivers 80 undergraduate and 48 graduate programs.

    The average incoming freshman holds a minimum 3.1 GPA and either a minimum 25 ACT or at least 1110 on the SAT. Graduate candidates need regionally accredited baccalaureate credentials and at least a 3.0 GPA. The university offers affordable tuition rates based on residency status and financial aid, which includes need-based grants and foundational scholarships.

    Undergraduate majors include public relations, marine biology, film media, and computer engineering. Students can also earn a bachelor's in sustainable agriculture and food systems, concentrating their degree plan on nutrition, food production, or food and society.

    The graduate catalog features master's programs in nursing and public administration. URI also offers a doctoral program in interdisciplinary neuroscience that spans five years and enables candidates to pursue one of four specializations.

  5. Salve Regina University

    Newport, RI



    Salve Regina University regularly receives praise as one of the best regional higher education institutions in the Northern United States. The school enrolls over 2,700 students in 60 undergraduate and graduate programs.

    Freshmen applicants submit official high school transcripts, two recommendation letters, a personal essay, and ACT/SAT scores. In addition to a regionally accredited bachelor's degree, prospective graduate students typically need to demonstrate relevant professional experience.

    Bachelor's candidates choose from majors like cultural and historic preservation, marketing, administration of justice, and music. They may also pursue a global business and economics degree that emphasizes ethical leadership for the international sector. High-achieving business students can accelerate their education to earn both a bachelor's and master's in five years.

    Traditional graduate programs include creative writing, holistic counseling, and applied behavior analysis. Salve also delivers a master of science in nursing and a doctor of nursing practice. DNP candidates gain the advanced research and leadership skills to work as healthcare quality specialists and clinical program directors.