In the following ranking, we examine the 10 best affordable colleges in Rhode Island for bachelor’s degrees. Although Rhode Island is the smallest state in the U.S., prospective students scouring the country for top-value colleges would regret skipping it as they conduct their college search. From the flagship campus at the University of Rhode Island to the artistic sanctuary at the Rhode Island School of Design to the Ivy League, Rhode Island packs a powerful punch and has much to offer in such a little space. The following 10 institutions of higher education cover the spectrum when it comes to academic opportunity, quality, and cost, with each offering a unique set of benefits. While some may wish to save their money and attend the small campus at Rhode Island College, others may choose to pay a little more and attend the nationally recognized RISD. Regardless of the university or college in Rhode Island you choose, you are sure to enjoy the many benefits, including affordable tuition rates and high graduation rates, the following 10 schools have to offer.
We know it can be a struggle for prospective students to narrow down the universities and colleges in Rhode Island, especially if they are not quite sure of the career path they wish to follow. Each school has something different to offer and comparing features, cost, and programs may be overwhelming. For this reason, we identified three key features that most students look for when selecting an institution: tuition rates, student-to-faculty ratios, and graduation rates. We then searched for colleges in Rhode Island that offered bachelor’s degrees using the College Navigator tool at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). We then awarded points and ranked the following 10 schools according to affordability, class size, and student success.
Average Cost of Attendance
The first thing you might find yourself looking at is the cost of each program. After all, it is important to ensure that you can even afford a college degree from a particular school before you dig into its academic options, extracurriculars, athletics, and other features. However, while some students may be tempted to immediately apply to a school because it offers the cheapest tuition, it is important to think of the average cost of attendance as just one piece of the larger puzzle. In other words, you will need to make sure that the school not only offers affordable and low-cost college courses in Rhode Island but also the major or area of study in which you are interested. Below, we ranked tuition based on how much an on-campus, in-state student can expect to pay for one year of study, according to NCES. We also felt it would be helpful to provide out-of-state tuition rates, though we did not use these numbers in the actual awarding of points.
Under $7,500: 3 points
$7,500 to $15,000: 2 points
$15,001 and above: 1 point
We used each school’s student-to-faculty ratio to get a better idea of the learning environment at that particular institution. While some schools may report a low ratio and large classes, in most cases, a low student-to-faculty ratio means more opportunities for individualized studies, mentoring, and personal relationships between peers and faculty. You will want to consider your own preferences when comparing ratios as some students prefer to blend in and complete their degree without too many interactions with others while other students are looking to interact as much as possible. Although there are benefits to both large state universities and small private colleges, for this ranking, we awarded the most points to institutions that reported student-to-faculty ratios of 10 or fewer students per faculty member, as reported by NCES.
10:1 or less: 3 points
11:1 to 15:1: 2 points
Greater than 15:1: 1 point
Finally, we examined the graduation rate for each college and university as a measure of student success. Although it is certainly important to look at acceptance rates to understand your chance of being admitted into a program, it is just as crucial to know how many students are remaining at that institution and earning their degree. Schools with high graduation rates are doing something to keep students happy and enrolled, whether that be providing affordable programs, offering academic support, or employing experienced faculty members. On the other hand, schools with low graduation rates may be lacking in one or more areas, causing students to leave and finish their degree elsewhere. We awarded the most points to colleges and universities that reported the highest graduation rates from NCES, based on the ranges outlined below.
More than 50 percent: 3 points
Between 30 percent and 50 percent: 2 points
Less than 30 percent: 1 point
Ranking Top 10 Best Affordable Colleges in Rhode Island
10. Johnson & Wales University-Providence
Providence, Rhode Island
Established in 1914 as a business school, Johnson & Wales University is a private career-oriented institution of higher education with its main campus in Providence. JWU is comprised of seven colleges: Arts & Sciences, Business, Culinary Arts, Engineering & Design, Health & Wellness, Hospitality Management, and Online Education. This top-value school also operates a Graduate Studies division that offers inexpensive master’s and doctoral degrees as well as a center for Physician Assistant Studies that prepares students to become collaborative partners focused on humanistic, patient-centered healthcare. Outside of the classroom, JWU students can choose from more than 1,400 internships in nearly every state and 30 countries to help develop valuable connections in the professional world. More than 8,500 JWU students live, play, and work in the dynamic city center. Providence is the ultimate college town, complete with professional sports, a thriving music and arts scene, and access to more than 380 miles of picturesque coastline. With fully-equipped residence halls, NCAA Division III athletics, and more than 100 student-run clubs, life at JWU’s flagship campus is equally nonstop.
In-State Tuition: $32,441
Out-of-State Tuition: $32,441
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19:1
Graduation Rate: 67 percent
9. Providence College
Providence, Rhode Island
Ranked among the top affordable colleges in Rhode Island, Providence College is a private Roman Catholic institution that specializes in the liberal arts. Founded in 1917, PC is unique in that it is the only school in the U.S. to be founded by Dominican Friars. PC enrolls more than 4,000 undergraduate students and is known for its signature Development of Western Civilization Program, a required course designed to strengthen the school’s distinctive core curriculum. At PC, students’ classes are rigorous and combined with internship, service, scholarship, and research opportunities to help students gain the perspective and experience they need to succeed. Popular low-cost degree programs include accounting, biology, finance, and marketing, and PC was the first college in the nation to confer a bachelor’s degree in public and community service studies. PC encourages students to participate in research, and 37 percent of graduates work with a faculty member on a research project while 94 percent of graduates participate in a career-appropriate or internship experience. This best-value school also offers more than 300 study-abroad programs.
In-State Tuition: $50,528
Out-of-State Tuition: $50,528
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12:1
Graduation Rate: 86 percent
8. Bryant University
Smithfield, Rhode Island
Bryant University, a private accredited university in Rhode Island, is dedicated to educating and inspiring students to become innovative leaders. Bryant features an integrated curriculum that allows students to combine liberal arts and business fields of interest as they develop the credentials for success. Each student at this best-value college is required to select a major and a minor to broaden their worldview, and they can choose from 168 economical combinations through Bryant’s College of Business and College of Arts & Sciences. Affordable degree programs range from marketing and entrepreneurship to international business and economics. Bryant also offers an undecided/exploratory program in which students receive mentorship, shadowing opportunities, career assessments, individualized academic advising, and personal career counseling. Approximately 99 percent of Bryant graduates are either in graduate school or employed within six months of earning their degree. The school recently invested $250 million to make improvements and add 250,000 square feet of new facilities. Bryant’s growing, beautiful campus is a collegial, inspiring community that is home to 106 clubs and organizations.
In-State Tuition: $43,973
Out-of-State Tuition: $43,973
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 13:1
Graduation Rate: 81 percent
7. Salve Regina University
Newport, Rhode Island
Established in 1934, Salve Regina University, one of the top-value colleges in Rhode Island, sits on 80 acres overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Newport, and enrolls more than 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students from 39 states and 24 countries. A Catholic, coeducational institution of higher education founded by the Sisters of Mercy, Salve confers 45 high-value undergraduate majors, 13 master’s degrees, and 12 combined bachelor’s/master’s programs. Quality doctoral degrees are also available in nursing, international relations, and humanities. Salve provides collaborative research opportunities and mentorship rarely seen at the undergraduate level, and internship experiences, fieldwork, and hands-on learning are offered throughout Aquidneck Island’s living laboratory. This low-cost school provides 200 study-abroad programs in 45 countries for students seeking to expand their learning opportunities. Approximately 98 percent of graduates are pursuing advanced degrees or employed within six months of earning their degree. Salve boasts 20 men’s, women’s, and coeducational varsity sports as well as nearly 60 student organizations. The campus itself is home to the only collegiate arboretum in Rhode Island, featuring 1,200 trees and more than 100 species.
In-State Tuition: $40,150
Out-of-State Tuition: $40,150
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
Graduation Rate: 72 percent
6. Roger Williams University
Bristol, Rhode Island
Founded in 1956, Roger Williams University is a private liberal arts university located in Bristol, with a second campus in the heart of Rhode Island’s capital city, Providence. Named for Rhode Island cofounder and theologian Roger Williams, RWU enrolls more than 6,500 undergraduate, graduate law, and University College students. Over the last five years, RWU has increased its institutional financial aid undergraduate budget and now offers some type of financial aid to 96 percent of students, making it one of the most affordable colleges in Rhode Island. With more than 45 low-cost programs of undergraduate study, an average class size of 19 students, and a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio, RWU’s academic programs are at the heart of the RWU experience. Courses in both professional fields of study and the liberal arts prepare students from this top-value university for their professional goals after graduation. Notable options include RWU’s Bachelor’s in Historic Preservation and one of only a handful of B.S. in Marine Biology programs. RWU offers also 12 master’s and certificate programs on-campus and online with a number of accelerated options for undergraduates. RWU is home to more than 70 clubs and student organizations as well as 24 varsity sports to meet every interest.
In-State Tuition: $34,522
Out-of-State Tuition: $34,522
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
Graduation Rate: 70 percent
5. New England Institute of Technology
East Greenwich, Rhode Island
The New England Institute of Technology, a best-value Rhode Island college, operates a main campus in East Greenwich. Established in 1940, NEIT offers more than 50 low-cost programs, including associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and online degrees. In fact, NEIT is the only school in the state that ranked among the top 20 best online bachelor’s programs by U.S News & World Report. Programs range from mechanical engineering technology and video game design to criminal justice and digital media production. Unlike other colleges in Rhode Island, NEIT students must first complete an associate degree before starting a bachelor’s program. However, NEIT offers accelerated options that allow students to graduate in as few as 18 months for both day and evening programs as well as four convenient start times per year: January, March/April, July, and October. Students are encouraged to get involved by connecting with like-minded techies, cheering on or participating in recreational athletics and intramural sports, or participating in fun activities such as cookouts, fantasy football leagues, golf tournaments, and open mic nights.
In-State Tuition: $29,856
Out-of-State Tuition: $29,856
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 13:1
Graduation Rate: 56 percent
4. University of Rhode Island
Kingston, Rhode Island
Established in 1892 as the Rhode Island College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts, the University of Rhode Island is a public land- and sea-grant university as well as the flagship university of the state. Enrolling more than 18,300 students, this affordable Rhode Island university reports a 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and 78 percent of classes have fewer than 29 students. At the undergraduate level, URI offers more than 80 cheap majors and more than 100 minors in a variety of unique fields such as animal science and technology, aquaculture and fisheries science, film media, geology and geological oceanography, international engineering, landscape architecture, marine biology, textile marketing, and sustainable agriculture and food systems. As a university focused largely on research, URI students are encouraged to participate in research projects both outside and inside the classroom, often receiving pay for their work. There are many opportunities at this cheap college for students to get involved outside of the classroom, including the Student Senate, Greek life, student organizations, service and volunteering, and the Center for Leadership Development.
In-State Tuition: $14,138
Out-of-State Tuition: $30,862
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
Graduation Rate: 67 percent
3. Rhode Island College
Providence, Rhode Island
Rhode Island College is a public institution of higher education and recognized as one of the cheapest colleges in Rhode Island. Founded in 1854 as The Rhode Island State Normal School, it is the second-oldest college in the state after Brown University. Its 180-acre campus is home to more than 9,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and the school is comprised of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development, the School of Business, the School of Nursing, the School of Social Work, and Professional Studies and Continuing Education. The most popular majors at this low-cost college include nursing, psychology, social work and youth services, criminal justice and safety studies, communications, and business. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes RIC as a “Green Ribbon School,” meaning that RIC is successfully improving the health and wellness of the campus community, reducing environmental costs and impact, and providing environmental education by incorporating it into its academic offerings.
In-State Tuition: $8,929
Out-of-State Tuition: $21,692
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
Graduation Rate: 50 percent
2. Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island
Located in Providence, Brown University is a private Ivy League research university and one of the best colleges in Rhode Island. Established in 1764 as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Brown University is the seventh-oldest institution of higher education in the country. Brown is comprised of the College for undergraduate students and the Graduate School as well as the Warren Alpert Medical School, the School of Engineering, the School of Public Health, and the School of Professional Studies. Brown boasts a 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio that provides opportunities for mentorship and individualized learning, and students can choose from more than 80 high-value undergraduate “concentrations,” which is what some colleges call “majors,” and 84 master’s and doctoral programs. Popular economical degree programs by enrollment include biology, economics, and computer science as well as computational and applied mathematics, engineering, entrepreneurship, and neuroscience and neurobiology. Brown is renowned for its distinctive undergraduate experience founded in the rigorous yet flexible Open Curriculum. Students at this best-value university are not required to complete a core curriculum and instead focus on concentrations and complete courses that are most relevant to their interests and professional goals.
In-State Tuition: $55,466
Out-of-State Tuition: $55,466
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 7:1
Graduation Rate: 95 percent
1. Rhode Island School of Design
Providence, Rhode Island
The Rhode Island School of Design is a private art and design college located in Providence, that enrolls 2,000 undergraduates and nearly 500 graduate students each year. Established in 1877, this best affordable college in Rhode Island, offers an immersive model of education in art and design that emphasizes robust liberal arts studies as well as conceptually driven, studio-based learning in undergraduate and graduate degree programs. RISD, pronounced “RIZ-dee,” is consistently ranked as one of the best institutions of higher education in the world for the field of art and design. Furniture design, architecture, apparel design, and printmaking are just some of the available academic options at RISD, and the most popular majors include painting, graphic design, industrial design, illustration, and film, animation, and video. Unlike other art schools in which students struggle to graduate on time or secure stable jobs, RISD students hold a solid track record of success. An 89 percent graduate rate and remarkably high 20-year net return on investment (ROI) prove that RISD is one of the best colleges in Rhode Island for career-oriented crafters.
In-State Tuition: $50,960
Out-of-State Tuition: $50,960
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 9:1
Graduation Rate: 89 percent
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Most In-Demand Careers in Rhode Island for Graduates with a Bachelor’s Degree?
To learn more about the labor market and economy in Rhode Island, we consulted the RI DataHub, a website established to explore and use data to address key issues and improve the services, programs, and policies that affect Rhode Islanders. While concern has been building in recent years, fed by some employers’ reports that workers are not trained enough to meet their demand, research does, in fact, show an upward trend of out-of-state workers filling open positions in the state, especially jobs that require an associate or bachelor’s degree.
According to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training’s Labor Market Information (LMI) division, there are consistent labor shortages in the state for certain business, healthcare, engineering, and computer occupations. Employment is projected to increase 5.9 percent from 2016 to 2026, and much of this growth is attributed to the increased need for services and products in sectors such as retail trade, healthcare and social assistance, accommodation and food services, and professional, scientific, and technical services. The following are the top 10 most in-demand careers in Rhode Island for graduates with a bachelor’s degree as well as the percentage of growth between 2016 and 2026:
- Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers: 31.8 percent
- Software Developers, Applications: 28.4 percent
- Layout Workers, Metal and Plastic: 27.1 percent
- Helpers–Production Workers: 26.7 percent
- Operations Research Analysts: 24.8 percent
- Sheet Metal Workers: 22.9 percent
- Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters: 21.8 percent
- Personal Care Aides: 21.2 percent
- Carpenters: 20.7 percent
- Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists: 20.5 percent
What Are the Highest-Paying Jobs in Rhode Island?
Although you may already know the career you wish to pursue, understanding the highest-paying jobs in Rhode Island can be useful if you aren’t entirely confident in your decision. While some students are intent on a specific occupation regardless of salary, others who are deciding between two fields may gravitate toward the one that pays better. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), who calculated occupational employment and wage estimates using data from all industries throughout the state, the annual mean wagefor all positions was $54,810 as of May 2018. The top five highest-paying jobs include:
- Obstetricians and Gynecologists: $266,280
- Surgeons: $257,000
- Dentists, General: $254,190
- Chief Executives: $242,350
- Podiatrists: $226,030
While the above occupations certainly require a bachelor’s degree as well as graduate school and additional training and licensure, we wanted to look at occupations for which students would be eligible with only a bachelor’s degree without the need for further education. Below are 10 high-paying occupations that only require an undergraduate degree or a bachelor’s and additional licensure, certification, training, and/or experience.
- Sales Managers: $161,970
- Marketing Managers: $159,400
- General Operations Managers: $155,910
- Human Resources Managers: $154,460
- Public Relations and Fundraising Managers: $153,480
- Architectural and Engineering Managers: $151,670
- Computer and Information Systems Managers: $146,550
- Financial Managers: $145,120
- Purchasing Managers: $134,220
- Training and Development Managers: $133,660
What are the Best Schools in Rhode Island for Bachelor’s Recipients?
There are many benefits for students attending college in Rhode Island, and they extend beyond the fact that the Ocean State is home to some of the best-value schools in the nation. Despite being the smallest state by area, Rhode Island is packed with many historical and cultural traditions as well as exciting events and miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline. Still, prospective students considering earning a bachelor’s degree from a college or university in Rhode Island can choose an institution based on the school’s return on investment (ROI) to ensure they are getting the most for their money. Below we have identified five of the best schools in Rhode Island and ranked them according to their 20-year net ROI, or the amount an on-campus student will earn over the course of 20 years after graduating with a bachelor’s degree without financial aid. We also provided early- and mid-career earningsto help provide a broader overview of how much students can expect to make with a bachelor’s degree from each institution, according to PayScale.
- 1. Brown University
– 20-Year Net ROI: $616,000
– Early Career Pay: $65,400
– Mid-Career Pay: $131,600
- 2. Bryant University
– 20-Year Net ROI: $480,000
– Early Career Pay: $58,700
– Mid-Career Pay: $108,400
- 3. University of Rhode Island
– 20-Year Net ROI: $391,000
– Early Career Pay: $53,000
– Mid-Career Pay: $99,800
- 4. Providence College
– 20-Year Net ROI: $350,000
– Early Career Pay: $56,900
– Mid-Career Pay: $107,400
- 5. Roger Williams University
– 20-Year Net ROI: $241,000
– Early Career Pay: $52,300
– Mid-Career Pay: $88,200
Located in Providence’s historic College Hill district, the highly selective Brown University sits on a 143-acre campus and is recognized as one of the oldest institutions of higher education in the country. A private Ivy League school, it is no wonder that Brown not only tops our list in terms of the highest ROI in the state but also boasts the best early- and mid-career salaries of any college or university in the state. Ranking second on our list of solid financial investments is Bryant University, a fantastic option for students interested in pursuing a degree in business. Regardless of the institution you choose, there are plenty of best affordable colleges in Rhode Island for bachelor’s degrees that offer rigorous, top-quality academic programs and allow you to get the biggest bang for your educational buck.
This concludes our ranking of the top 10 best affordable colleges in Rhode Island for bachelor’s degrees in 2020.
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