5 Best Colleges in Rhode Island – 2024

May 14, 2024

best colleges for rhode island

The last of the original 13 Colonies to earn statehood, Rhode Island also, of course, holds the distinction as the smallest member of the United States. Still, its geographical limitations did not in any way lead to a dearth of higher education opportunities within its friendly confines. In addition to its famed Ivy League institution, RI offers some other terrific and unique opportunities to talented students from around the globe. The following list of the 5 best colleges in Rhode Island is meant to give you a sense of the array of wonderful higher education options in the state. The data in each profile card is intended to give a better sense of the academic offerings and outcomes at each institution. If you happen to be a resident, the flagship University of Rhode Island presents as an excellent high-value option for many students.


Click here to read our methodology for the Best Colleges in Rhode Island. As you’ll see, some schools with spectacular (and deserved) reputations simply do not happen to fare well on metrics such as student-to-faculty ratio or spending per student. We understand that a list based solely on prestige/general reputation would look different than what you will find below.

Best Colleges in Rhode Island

Here’s a quick preview of the 5 Rhode Island-based institutions that made our list. Detailed profiles and stats can be found when you scroll below.

1) Brown University

2) Rhode Island School of Design

3) Providence College

4) Bryant University

5) University of Rhode Island

All of the schools profiled below have a history of sending graduates to the most desirable employers and graduate schools in the country. College Transitions will provide you with—when available—each school’s:

  • Enrollment
  • Cost of Attendance
  • Acceptance Rate
  • Median SAT
  • Median ACT
  • Retention Rate
  • Graduation Rate

We will also include a longer write-up of each college’s:

  • Academic Highlights – Includes facts like student-to-faculty ratio, average class size, number of majors offered, and most popular majors.
  • Professional Outcomes – Includes info on the rate of positive outcomes, companies employing alumni, and graduate school acceptances.
#1 Best College in Rhode Island
Brown University

Brown University

  • Providence, RI

Academic Highlights: Students must choose one of 80+ “concentration programs,” but there are no required courses. Class sizes tend to be small—68% have fewer than twenty students—and 35% are comprised of nine or fewer students. Biology, economics, computer science, mathematics, and engineering are among the most popular areas of concentration at Brown; however, it is hard to distinguish any one program, because Brown possesses outstanding offerings across so many disciplines.

Professional Outcomes: Soon after receiving their Brown diplomas, 69% of graduates enter the world of employment. Companies employing the greatest number of Brown alums include Google, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, Amazon, Morgan Stanley, Apple, McKinsey & Company, and Bain & Company. The Class of 2022 saw 27% of graduates go directly into graduate/professional school. Right out of undergrad, Brown students boasted an exceptional 81% admission rate to med school and an 81% admission rate to law school.

  • Enrollment: 7,639
  • Cost of Attendance: $84,828
  • Median SAT: 1530
  • Median ACT: 35
  • Acceptance Rate: 5%
  • Retention Rate: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 96%

#2 Best College in Rhode Island
Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island School of Design

  • Providence, RI

Academic Highlights: The student-to-faculty ratio at RISD is just 9:1 which means students get a ton of personalized attention from their professors. The average class size is just 15 students. Among the most popular majors are architecture, cinematography and video production, painting, sculpture, illustration, and computer graphics. In total, there are 44 full-time bachelor’s and master’s degree programs for students to choose from.

Professional Outcomes: Recent graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design found their next positive career/educational step at a 97% clip. Companies hiring RISD grads include Athleta, Citigroup, Chewy, Deloitte, Coach, Barefoot Books, the New York Times, Nickelodeon, NVIDIA, NASA, Fidelity, Google, Paramount, Reebok, and West Elm. 46% of recent grads earned more than $40,000 as a starting salary.

  • Enrollment: 2,044
  • Cost of Attendance: $85,986
  • Median SAT: N/A
  • Mid-50% ACT: 28-34
  • Acceptance Rate: 19%
  • Retention Rate: 95%
  • Graduation Rate: 89%

#3 Best College in Rhode Island
Providence College

Providence College

  • Providence, RI

Academic Highlights: At PC, there are 50 majors on tap. The most popular offerings are all within the School of Business, which confers a stunning 39% of degrees. The next most common majors are the social sciences (14%), biology (9%), psychology (9%), and health-related professions (6%). The student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1 is low enough to make individual connections possible, including undergraduate research experiences that 36% of recent grads reported having the chance to engage in. 95% of classes enroll 29 students or fewer; the average class size is 19.

Professional Outcomes: 96% of Class of 2022 graduates were employed or in graduate school within six months of graduating. Among the employed, 94% were working in their field of interest, and the mean starting salary was $58,009. Most students enter the financial management/consulting/sales sector followed by marketing, healthcare, and engineering & scientific research. More than 50 alumni are presently employed by Fidelity Investments, PwC, Morgan Stanley, EY, IBM, Citi, and Dell Technologies. 18% of graduates immediately enroll in full-time graduate or professional degree programs.

  • Enrollment: 4,279 (undergraduate); 477 (graduate)
  • Cost of Attendance: $77,860
  • Median SAT: 1230
  • Median ACT: 28
  • Acceptance Rate: 53%
  • Retention Rate: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 86%

#4 Best College in Rhode Island
Bryant University

Bryant University

  • Smithfield, RI

Academic Highlights: Bryant offers nearly 2o undergraduate majors across three schools/colleges: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business, and the School of Health and Behavioral Sciences. Programs in international business and accounting are particularly strong. Popularity-wise, the overwhelming majority of degrees are conferred in business/management/marketing (82%), followed by communication/journalism (4%), social sciences (4%), and mathematics (4%). 26% of classes enroll fewer than 20 students.

Professional Outcomes: Within six months of graduation, 99% of the Class of 2022 were either employed or pursuing graduate studies. The median salary was $66k. Top employers included Aetna, Ameriprise, Bank of America, Dell, EY, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, Liberty Mutual, PwC, Raytheon, and Target. Those who continued in graduate/professional school did so at a wide range of top institutions such as Auburn, Babson, Boston College, BU, Dartmouth, Fordham, Northeastern, Northwestern, UMass, UConn, and UVA.

  • Enrollment: 3,153 (undergraduate); 333 (graduate)
  • Cost of Attendance: $73,155
  • Median SAT: 1240
  • Median ACT: 30
  • Acceptance Rate: 69%
  • Retention Rate: 88%
  • Graduation Rate: 83%

#5 Best College in Rhode Island
University of Rhode Island

University of Rhode Island

  • Kingston, RI

Academic Highlights: URI hosts students from 48 states and 66 countries, all of who have come for the school’s 100+ majors and minors and the respectable 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Overall, 39% of undergraduate sections enroll 19 or fewer students. Health professions is the most commonly earned degree area (15%), followed by business (14%), journalism (8%), engineering (8%), biology (8%), and the social sciences (8%). Nursing, CS, business, psychology, and economics are all well-respected programs by employers and grad schools.

Professional Outcomes: Nursing majors at URI have a 92% employment rate and an average starting salary of $75,000. Including all majors, 75% of grads go right into the world of employment and 15% go directly into graduate school. The companies employing the largest number of URI alumni include Fidelity Investments, Lifespan, CVS Health, Moderna, Amazon, Johnson & Johnson, Takeda, and Microsoft.

  • Enrollment: 13,927
  • Cost of Attendance: $31,308 (In-State); $50,704 (Out-of-State)
  • Median SAT: 1220
  • Median ACT: 27
  • Acceptance Rate: 76%
  • Retention Rate: 85%
  • Graduation Rate: 71%

We hope you have found our list of the Best Colleges in Rhode Island to be useful and informative as you continue your college search process. We also invite you to check out some of our other resources and tools including: