Rhode Island’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

Rhode Island’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

What are the best colleges and universities in Rhode Island if you reward schools for making the best use of their limited resources? Academic Stewardship asks how effectively schools manage their financial and human resources to gain the influence that makes them academically excellent. Schools that are exemplary in Academic Stewardship are doing everything in their power to help students and faculty achieve their full potential.

Colleges and universities in Rhode Island deserve to be recognized when they do more with less. It’s impressive when a large wealthy school can spend money lavishly on expensive buildings and programs. But it’s even more impressive when a small school with limited means is able to train and inspire students that the larger wealthier schools tend to ignore.

The American Association of Colleges and Universities reported in late 2021 that almost 75 percent of higher-education professionals at US colleges and universities felt financial constraints prevented their schools from effectively attracting students. Distracted by the size and amenities of larger schools, prospective students tended especially to be overawed by the big research universities.

Rhode Island’s smaller colleges, especially its liberal arts colleges, need effective ways of communicating their value to a world that celebrates “bigger is better” and “you need the best.” Unfortunately, most college ranking companies, such as U.S. News & World Report, define “best” in a way that devalues schools with smaller budgets and fewer students even when these schools do remarkable work in advancing their students’ education. By and large, college rankings penalize schools that serve underserved populations.

Inspired by Malcolm Gladwell, who for years now has criticized conventional college rankings for misrepresenting what’s good and valuable in education, we decided to construct a new ranking metric that highlights those schools that do more with less. That metric—called the Academic Stewardship metric—takes away both the size and the wealth advantage of schools, and focuses instead on how well schools use the resources available to them to advance the education of their students.

How We Measure the Academic Stewardship of Rhode Island’s Colleges and Universities

Rhode Island's Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship
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As a metric, Academic Stewardship is defined by a precise mathematical formula, which can be found in our Academic Stewardship white paper. Measuring the Academic Stewardship of Rhode Island’s colleges requires measuring two forms of stewardship: 1) Stewardship of financial resources (using the money they have responsibility without waste) and 2) Stewardship of human resources (doing their best to help students, faculty, and administration to flourish). Together, these two types of stewardship form what we call  Academic Stewardship. If you want to learn more about the factors involved in Academic Stewardship, click the more button below.

  1. Stewardship of financial resources: To determine a school’s stewardship of financial resources, we factored in its undergraduate size, budget, endowments and reserves, as well as tuition and fees. All these data are available from the National Center for Educational Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. In addition, we factored in a school’s financial responsibility as gauged by the Federal Student Aid Office at the US Department of Education through its financial responsibility composite scores.
  2. Stewardship of human resources: To determine a school’s stewardship of human resources, we used our InfluenceRanking engine to track the influence of the school’s faculty and alumni but also to control for size of the undergraduate student body. We’ve found that measuring a school’s influence based on the contributions of faculty and alumni make in their fields of study but then also controlling for size of the undergraduate population is the single best indicator of academic excellence. We call this Concentrated Influence. Schools that rank highly in Concentrated Influence are schools that, given their available human resources, invest heavily in their students and faculty, and the results are demonstrable.
    • We measure the influence of colleges and universities based on the publications and citations of the schools’ faculty and alumni who are teaching in and working in areas related to their degrees. To do this, we take publicly available databases, such as Semantic Scholar, Crossref, and Wikipedia and use these to measure the influence of academics in their disciplines. Having measured the influence of persons, we then identify the schools that they’re affiliated with, adding up the influence scores of the faculty and alumni to measure the influence of the schools and their disciplinary programs. Finally, we control these influence scores by size of undergraduate student body so that schools do not score high in influence simply because of a size advantage. We lay out these methodological considerations on our methodology page.
  3. Academic Stewardship: Having measured a school’s stewardship of financial and human resources in the two previous points, we now divide the second measure by the first to define the Academic Stewardship metric. This metric spotlights smaller schools, with fewer financial resources and people, that invest wisely and do proportionately better in building influence than large wealthy schools. Many of these smaller, less wealthy schools are incentivized to make better use of their resources but would never get recognized in conventional school rankings, which directly or indirectly put a premium on the wealth of schools.

Academic Stewardship as so defined is connected to keeping tuition and other costs down, but it should not be confused with affordability or frugality. The schools that this metric ranks as exemplary academic stewards tend to be all over the map when it comes to tuition and other costs. At issue is the influence of schools given the financial and human resources they have on hand. If a school is going to charge more for tuition, then that needs to be reflected in the school having proportionately greater influence.

Why Academic Stewardship Matters to Students and Their Families

The benefits of attending a school with strong academic stewardship include:

  • A clear reason for why students are at the school in the first place. Without the distraction of amenities and luxuries, these schools are at once unpretentious but also passionately committed to their educational mission. The schools in this ranking are financially efficient and academically rigorous. By avoiding frills, these schools take the most direct path to accomplishing their mission of educating students.
  • Valuing character over prestige and self-indulgence. A school that’s a good steward of its resources doesn’t instill shame in its students over what they are missing (such as elite cuisine) but rather pride in what they have and making the most of it. These schools exhibit a culture of good stewardship, which tends to build good character in the students that attend these schools.
  • Avoiding the spoiled-student syndrome. It’s easy to think that offering students endless options and opportunities will enrich their time at school in every way. But spoiling people—whether in business, sports, or academics—has the opposite effect, causing people to take their advantages for granted and in the end achieving less than they might otherwise, a point well-documented in Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code. Schools exhibiting academic stewardship avoid this pitfall.
  • The best schools vs. the schools that help students to be their best. Students at schools demonstrating outstanding academic stewardship aren’t so much concerned about being at the “best” school, whatever that may mean, as about being at a school that helps them to be their best. These schools pay attention to their students, hoping that any glory goes to them rather than to the school. Small schools, and especially liberal arts colleges, help themselves by communicating this advantage to prospective students.
  • Emphasizing development over talent and achievement. Schools like Harvard and Stanford have their pick of academic talent, and their students have a long record of achievement even before they apply to such elite schools. But if a school doesn’t have the resources of a Harvard or Stanford, how does it build a great team of students? In that case, it must focus on student development. Colleges exemplifying academic stewardship emphasize student growth and development, ensuring that the schools are doing everything in their power to help students reach their full potential and thereby become their best selves.
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Rhode Island’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

  1. #1

    Rhode Island College

    Providence , RI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    980/17

    What is Rhode Island College known for?

    Rhode Island College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Education
    • Anthropology
    • Nursing
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    Brown University

    Providence , RI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $62K

    Acceptance

    8%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1505/34

    What is Brown University known for?

    Brown University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Business
    • Education
    • Economics
    • Computer Science
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Bryant University

    Smithfield , RI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $48K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    82%

    Student body

    4K

    What is Bryant University known for?

    Bryant University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Economics
    • Communications
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #5

    Roger Williams University

    Bristol , RI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    86%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    5K

    What is Roger Williams University known for?

    Roger Williams University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Law
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • Economics
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #6

    University of Rhode Island

    Kingston , RI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/25

    What is University of Rhode Island known for?

    University of Rhode Island’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • Communications
    • Earth Sciences
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #7

    Salve Regina University

    Newport , RI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $44K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    3K

    What is Salve Regina University known for?

    Salve Regina University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • History
    • Political Science
    • Nursing
    • Social Work
    • Psychology
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #8

    New England Institute of Technology

    East Greenwich , RI

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1060/17

    What is New England Institute of Technology known for?

    New England Institute of Technology’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Nursing
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Rhode Island’s Best Colleges in Your Area of Interest

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Colleges and Universities in Rhode Island

Of the three public schools, the University of Rhode Island is the largest, having more than 15,000 students in attendance. The main campus is located in Kingston, and the tuition rate is $14,000. The most prestigious school in the state is Brown University, a private Ivy League institution located in Providence. Over 9,000 students study on this campus in fields like biophysics, ethnic studies, and public health. Tuition is more expensive at about $55,000, but the school boasts a 96% graduation rate.

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Of the eight private schools, two are religiously affiliated. Both Salve Regina University and Providence College have under 5,000 students, though the tuition fees are more expensive at $40,000 and $51,000, respectively. Whether you seek an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree, Rhode Island also offers a unique opportunity for graduates. As a financial incentive to pursue a career or start a business in Rhode Island in the technology, engineering, design, or other sectors, the Wavemaker Fellowship program defrays student loan payments for up to four years.

Rhode Island is the smallest U.S. state, but it has more than 400 miles of coastline, giving it the nickname The Ocean State. With sandy beaches and colonial towns, this state offers relaxation and history. Rhode Island also has 11 public and private higher education institutions with an average tuition of just over $12,000.

Meet your academic goals at one of the higher learning centers in Rhode Island. Check out the top programs to see which school fits your needs.


What are Rhode Island’s Colleges & Universities?

Rhode Island’s Best Overall