Updated December 5, 2022

By Iris Stone In this ranking, we examine top value universities and colleges in Rhode Island. For online options, see our ranking of Best Value Online Colleges and Universities in Rhode Island. As a state, Rhode Island is so small that it's pretty easy to miss completely. But if you're busy scouring the country for ...

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Best Value Schools - Rhode Island

By Iris Stone

In this ranking, we examine top value universities and colleges in Rhode Island. For online options, see our ranking of Best Value Online Colleges and Universities in Rhode Island.

As a state, Rhode Island is so small that it's pretty easy to miss completely. But if you're busy scouring the country for eligible colleges, you'd regret skipping over these top Rhode Island schools! From Ivy League Brown to the artistic sanctuary at the Rhode Island School of Design to the flagship campus at the University of Rhode Island, this state packs a lot into such a small space.

These colleges cover the entire spectrum of options in terms of cost, quality, and academic opportunity, with each boasting a blend of benefits uniquely their own. Pay a little more to attend the esteemed RISD or save your money and opt for Rhode Island College's small campus instead. No matter which you choose, you'll soon see the type of benefits - including high graduation rates and low acceptance rates - these seven schools have to offer.


Read more about the methodology we used for this article here.

#1 Brown University Providence, RI
#2 Providence College Providence, RI
#3 Rhode Island School of Design Providence, RI
#4 Rhode Island College Providence, RI
#5 University of Rhode Island Kingston, RI
#6 Bryant University Smithfield, RI
#7 Salve Regina University Newport, RI

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  1. Brown University

    Providence, RI



    Although Brown University enjoys membership in the elite Ivy League, it doesn't rely on this historic honor to prove its worth. Brown's 9% acceptance rate, 96% graduation rate, and $724k net ROI are just a few examples of its esteemed caliber - even its net price is comparatively low, making Brown one of the most affordable Rhode Island colleges! Undergraduates choose Brown in part for its eclectic mix of 80+ concentrations; you could study Applied Mathematics Biology, Contemplative Studies, Egyptology and Assyriology, Linguistics, Physics and Philosophy, or myriad other one-of-a-kind options. And as one of the best colleges in Rhode Island, Brown offers some truly unique educational initiatives, including an eight-year program in Liberal Medical Education (culminating in an M.D.) and a dual degree partnership with RISD.

  2. Providence College

    Providence, RI



    Providence College might not exactly qualify as a cheap college in Rhode Island, but your tuition check will be anything but a wasted expense. A "Catholic, Dominican, liberal arts institution" with a mission statement that emulates "pursuit of truth, growth in virtue, and service of God and neighbor," Providence College acts as an ethical oasis that holds itself - and its students - to the highest standards. Both its 63% acceptance rate and 86% graduation rate are some of the best in the state, proving that this top college in Rhode Island celebrates student achievement from September Academic Convocation to May Commencement Mass.

  3. Rhode Island School of Design

    Providence, RI



    Of all the top universities in Rhode Island, the Rhode Island School of Design, or "RISD" (pronounced RIZ-dee) is undoubtedly one of the best known. The school's prestigious reputation for excellence in the arts is well founded; its student-centered, studio-based curriculum provides an academic haven for creative spirits who want to study Printmaking, Metalsmithing, Illustration, Architecture, Graphic Design, or one of nearly two-dozen other options. And unlike some other art schools, which struggle to graduate students on time or help them secure reliable jobs, RISD students hold a remarkable track record of success. An 87% graduation rate and nearly $220k 20-year net ROI prove that RISD is one of the best Rhode Island colleges for career-oriented crafters.

  4. Rhode Island College

    Providence, RI



    Rhode Island College may not have the enrollment numbers of an expansive university like URI, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in history. RIC was the first public school in the state, and it has been welcoming young learners to its suburban 180-acre campus for more than 150 years. As a student at this memorably cheap Rhode Island college, you'll be impressed with how far your tuition dollars go; nearly 70 different majors and minors - including a self-designed option and an unusual set of "exploring" programs for indecisive scholars - are available alongside a multiplicity of intramurals and student interest groups.

  5. University of Rhode Island

    Kingston, RI



    As the flagship campus of Rhode Island's public school system, URI is distinctively learner-centered and research-focused. Armed with land and sea grants, The University of Rhode Island has evolved into an intellectual and economic force to be reckoned with; its Agricultural Co-op Extension Program is especially impactful and focuses on sustainable energy, food production, and communities. This affordable college in Rhode Island offers equally practical majors for undergrads, including Animal Science and Technology, Aquaculture and Fishery Technology, Geology and Geological Oceanography, Medical Laboratory Science, and Wildlife and Conservation Biology. Such career-focused majors form the basis of URI's laudable 20-year net ROI, which stands at nearly $370k!

  6. Bryant University

    Smithfield, RI



    Bryant University is best known for its novel undergraduate curriculum, which combines theoretical pedagogy with real-world applications in impressive ways. This includes "the Gateway," a nationally-respected freshman program that emphasizes critical thinking and cultural awareness. First-years also take an immersive January course called IDEA, which promotes teamwork, creative problem solving, and "design thinking" through group projects. But that's just year one! Year two is characterized by the one-of-a-kind Sophomore International Experience, during which you'll travel abroad to study international business, economics, and culture. In fact, Bryant is not just one of the best universities in Rhode Island, but one of the highest-ranked in the nation for study abroad participation! Lastly, upper-level students of all majors can receive experiential credit for everything from internships and practicums to volunteer partnerships with nonprofits.

  7. Salve Regina University

    Newport, RI



    Salve Regina University is located on an 80-acre campus that has been carefully constructed by combining the properties of seven Gilded Age mansions. These elaborate residencies housed many of the area's most elite citizens in the late 19th century, but today they lend a sense of elegance and history to Salve Regina's campus. The small, Catholic university supports nearly two-dozen academic departments in liberal arts subjects such as Art and Art History, English and Communications, Mathematical Sciences, and Philosophy, plus several special educational initiatives. This comprehensive top Rhode Island college offers the prestigious Pell Honors Program, Army ROTC training, the interdisciplinary VIA curriculum, and continuing education options (including online coursework) for adult learners.

This concludes our ranking of best value Rhode Island colleges and universities.

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About the Author:
Iris Stone began her writing career as a freelance writer and researcher. She now owns and operates a writing and editing firm that works with clients all across the country. Her work has included articles related to education policy, colleges and universities, academic programs, and careers.

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