9 Best Colleges in Rhode Island
Picturing the quintessential college town? Look no further than Providence, Rhode Island. Filled with history, arts, and culture, the city offers numerous opportunities.
But the smallest state is home to many excellent colleges outside of its capital, too. In fact, some of the oldest institutions of higher learning call Rhode Island their home.
Our Ranking Methodology
In order to make our list of the 10 best colleges in Rhode Island, we mainly focused on school quality, outcomes, and return on investment (ROI). In addition, we examined data such as retention rate, selectivity, endowment per student, student-faculty ratio, median earnings, and cost of attendance, among many others. If you’re wondering how schools around the country stack up, you can see our full rankings here.
Best Colleges in Rhode Island
1. Brown University
Acceptance Rate: 8%
Middle 50% SAT: 1420-1550
Middle 50% ACT: 32-35
Undergrad Enrollment: 7,000
The seventh-oldest college in the country, Brown was founded in 1764, one of only nine colonial colleges charted before the American Revolution. The Ivy League university is known for its innovative curriculum. Central to this is Brown’s Open Curriculum, which allows students to explore, research, and collaborate without the confines of a rigid core curriculum.
Along with 80+ programs (what other colleges call majors), Brown offers options like the Brown | RISD Dual Degree Program in partnership with the Rhode Island School of Design, which leads to students earning both a BA from Brown and a BFA from RISD. Students interested in medicine can apply to the rigorous Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME), an eight-year combined bachelor’s/MD program, the only one of its kind in the Ivy League.
2. Providence College
Acceptance Rate: 49%
Middle 50% SAT: 1210-1360
Middle 50% ACT: 26-30
Undergrad Enrollment: 4,100
Providence is a Catholic, liberal arts college focused on the sciences and humanities, offering programs across the School of Arts & Sciences, School of Business, and School of Professional Studies. It was the first institution of higher learning to offer a bachelor’s in Public and Community Service Studies. It is also consistenty ranked among the top five regional (north) universities by U.S. News.
But the college is known for far more than exemplary academics. A founding member of the original Big East Conference and Hockey East, the Friars have earned three national championships. The college also offers more than 300 study abroad programs, from Rome to Shanghai.
3. Bryant University
Acceptance Rate: 76%
Average SAT: 1208
Average ACT: 27.4
Undergrad Enrollment: 3,400
“Educate and inspire students to discover their passion and become innovative leaders with character around the world.” That’s Bryant’s mission.
Aimed at integrating business, the arts, and sciences with a global perspective, Bryant offers nearly 100 programs across the College of Business, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Health Sciences. The university focuses on experiential and service learning, helping future leaders learn how to tackle real-world problems. A report on college ROI by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce ranks Bryant among the top in the U.S. and #1 in Rhode Island.
4. University of Rhode Island | URI
Location: North Kingston
Acceptance Rate: 69%
Middle 50% SAT: 1070-1240
Middle 50% ACT: 21-27
Undergrad Enrollment: 14,700
A major research university, URI has a diverse student body representing 48 states and 76 countries. The university has more than 100 bachelor’s degree programs across disciplines and colleges that include Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Professional Studies, Engineering, Health Sciences, Environment and Life Sciences, Nursing, Pharmacy and Oceanography.
URI is particularly known for its pharmacy programs, including its Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Science program. But it has distinguished itself across fields, with 90% of recent URI graduates employed or pursuing graduate studies.
5. New England Institute of Technology
Location: East Greenwich
Acceptance Rate: 70%
Middle 50% SAT: 950-1140
Middle 50% ACT: 15-21
Undergrad Enrollment: 2,500
NEIT is characterized by academic programs designed to equip students with the skills employers want—and students begin learning these skills on their first day of college. It offers programs in in-demand specialties such as Business Management; Architecture, Interior Design & Construction Management; Cybersecurity; Nursing & Health Sciences; and Video Game Development & Design. Students earn their degrees in just 18–36 months, completing an associate, bachelor’s, or graduate degree.
6. Salve Regina University
Acceptance Rate: 76%
Average SAT: 1220
Average ACT: 26
Undergrad Enrollment: 2,000
Situated in Newport, the site of mansions and beaches galore, Salve Regina was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1934 and embraces a traditional, liberal arts approach to education. The university is ranked the #23 best regional university in the north and #24 for the best undergraduate teaching by U.S. News, and 98% of graduates are employed or pursuing advanced degrees within six month of graduation. Salve Regina boasts the only collegiate arboretum in the state that has more than 1,200 trees and 100 unique species.
7. Roger Williams University | RWU
Acceptance Rate: 86%
Middle 50% SAT: 1140-1290
Middle 50% ACT: 26-30
Undergrad Enrollment: 4,500
Experiential learning is the cornerstone of an RWU education. Students learn by doing—participating in hands-on projects and research—preparing them for successful careers ahead. The university offers several unique programs, including a BS in Marine Biology, one of just a handful of programs of its kind in the country; the only JD Law program in Rhode Island; and one of just seven BS programs in Historic Preservation in the country. From service learning to internships, study abroad to community partnerships, the opportunities at Roger Williams abound.
8. Johnson & Wales University-Providence
Acceptance Rate: 91%
Middle 50% SAT: N/A
Middle 50% ACT: N/A
Undergrad Enrollment: 6,600
Johnson & Wales currently has two campuses, one in Providence (with an auxiliary in Cranston, RI), and another in Charlotte, North Carolina. Initially founded as a business school, JWU currently offers programs across Business, Culinary Arts, Hospitality, Health & Wellness, Engineering & Design, and Arts & Sciences. In particular, JWU is known for its culinary arts program. In fact, it is the largest food-service educator in the world. It’s also one of the top three hospitality schools.
9. Rhode Island College | RIC
Acceptance Rate: 73%
Middle 50% SAT: 890-1100
Middle 50% ACT: 16-20
Undergrad Enrollment: 6,600
Founded in 1854, RIC is the second-oldest college in the state, after Brown, and its first public institution of higher education. It offers programs across the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development, the School of Business, the Zvart Onanian School of Nursing and the School of Social Work. U.S. News ranks RIC the #2 Top Public Regional University in New England for Social Mobility. Meanwhile, it’s a Top 10 Best Value Public Colleges in New England (Money Magazine 2021).
What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?
Considering attending college in the Ocean State? Or perhaps you have your sights set elsewhere. Either way, find out your chances of admission using CollegeVine’s free chancing engine. This free tool will do far more than estimate your real odds of acceptance—it will also give you tips on how to improve your profile.
Our chancing engine can also help you build a balanced school list of colleges in Rhode Island and across the country. By providing your odds of acceptance, you can strategically assign safety, target, and reach schools and put yourself in the best position to get into a college that fits your needs and meets your expectations. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!