Rhode Island’s Best Public Colleges & Universities of 2021

Public colleges and universities account for almost 75 percent of all undergraduate students in the U.S. The best public colleges in Rhode Island provide broad access to reputable degree programs, affordable tuition, and sprawling educational communities.

Rhode Island’s Best Public Colleges & Universities of 2021

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

What is a public college? And what is the difference between a private and public college?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models — one is a private company with private funding; the other is owned by the state and receives both state and federal funding to operate. If you’re weighing the pros and cons of private vs. public college, consider that many public colleges provide diverse course offerings, influential professors, and an excellent return on your investment.

Public colleges are schools that receive most of their funding from tax revenues. As a result, the cost of a four-year degree at a public university is often lower than the equivalent cost at a private college — especially for students attending a public school in their home state. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a four-year public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually.

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How do we determine Rhode Island's best public colleges and universities?

Methodology

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call “Concentrated Influence”. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.


This list is composed entirely of public colleges and universities that offer four-year undergraduate degrees. We’ve identified 2 public universities in Rhode Island; both of which meet our criteria. The list below of the best public universities in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must receive direct funding from the state.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. It offers a broad range of bachelor’s degree programs.
  4. Its graduation rate must be greater than 40%.

Best Public Colleges & Universities in Rhode Island

  1. 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:

    • Biology
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology

    Most Influential Alumni

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  2. #2

    Rhode Island College

    Providence , RI

    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:

    • Education
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Communications
    • Social Work
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Medical
    • Literature
    REQUEST INFO

Find the best public college in Rhode Island for your interests


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Photo By: Kenneth C. Zirkel - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0