Best Public Colleges in Rhode Island 2024


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.

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 the difference between public and private colleges?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models. Public colleges and universities are owned by the state and receive both state and federal funding to operate. Private colleges and universities are private companies with private funding. If you’re looking at the pros and cons of private vs. public colleges, 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 bachelor’s 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. Attending a college in-state is usually the cheapest option. Private universities and colleges can be very competitive with their funding opportunities, so do not simply believe that private colleges are always going to be more expensive. According to National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually. But in the end, the cost of college comes down to each student’s academic and financial situation.

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This list is composed entirely of public colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s degrees. We’ve identified 2 public universities in Rhode Island. To be included in our list of the best public colleges in Rhode Island, shcools must receive direct funding from the state, be fully accredited, and offer a broad range of bachelor’s degress.

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Best Public Colleges in Rhode Island 2023

  1. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees






    Student body


    Median SAT/ACT


    Career Outlook for degree at University of Rhode Island

    Cost of Degree: $15,880
    Expenses: $17,270
    Starting Salary: $58,400
    Cost Recoup Time: 11 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    University of Rhode Island’s Online Degrees

    BA in Communication Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing Rn To Bsn
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  2. #2

    Rhode Island College

    Providence , RI

    Tuition + fees






    Student body


    Career Outlook for degree at Rhode Island College

    Cost of Degree: $10,966
    Expenses: $16,104
    Starting Salary: $43,900
    Cost Recoup Time: 12 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
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Rhode Island’s Best Public College in Your Area of Interest

2021 Ranking Archive

Many of our 2022 undergraduate focused rankings look considerably different than 2021. That’s because we took a fundamentally different apporach. For 2021 we utilized our Concentrated Influence algorithm, designed to take away the size advantage larger schools have when we rank their faculty and alumni’s academic influence. Concentrated influence highlights smaller schools that are proportionally as successful as larger universities at cultivating influential alumni and faculty.

  1. University of Rhode Island
  2. Rhode Island College

Check out our directory of public colleges throughout the U.S. for a look at the top public colleges in every state.

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