Best Online Colleges in Rhode Island

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As a member of the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), Rhode Island works in conjunction with the other five New England states to promote educational opportunities and services for the Northeast United States. Online learners benefit from the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), a collaborative program dedicated to reducing fees and increasing access to high-quality distance education programs.

Another advantage for Rhode Island students is the Regional Student Program (RSP), which grants tuition discounts to residents who enroll in out-of-state public colleges and universities in the New England region. This program allows access to over 800 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and saved students an approximate total of $58 million on tuition fees during the 2015-2016 academic year.

Online colleges in Rhode Island offer students a host of benefits. Most online programs feature extremely flexible schedules, allowing students with jobs or other time commitments to complete their studies at a time and pace that works for them. Along with cost-saving measures introduced by the RSP, online students in Rhode Island often enjoy dramatically lower tuition fees when they attend a school in their home state. Students looking for in-person instruction can find programs that mix online instruction with in-person sessions, as well.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1University of Rhode Island 3/558.87%Kingston, RI

University of Rhode Island offers fully online programs and over 100 online courses including a 15-month accelerated Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and a 14-month Master of Science in Dietetics for students currently completing a dietetic internship program.

The unique 100% online Cyber Security Professional Science Master’s program is a tech-oriented degree that caters to working professionals. Students have access to video lectures streaming on demand and cloud-based hands-on labs. Students can intern at the Digital Forensics Center, a university based nonprofit that provides services to the community.

URI also offers online graduate and professional certificates in digital forensics, cyber security, and digital literacy.

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2Roger Williams University 5/562.16%Bristol, RI

Roger Williams University (RWU) offers more than 40 majors with the option of taking select courses online or in a hybrid format (online and the classroom). Students and faculty utilize the Bridges online management system to complete coursework.

Academic support services to online and traditional students include advisement, online and face-to-face tutoring, a Center for Student Academic Success, Career and Professional Development, and Student Accessibility Services.

Active military personnel and veterans are eligible for discounted tuition and flexible scheduling and can partake in one of 17 completely online programs through distance learning.

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3Johnson & Wales University-Providence 4/557.45%Providence, RI

Johnson and Wales University (JWU), an institution that focuses on culinary arts and beyond, has a College of Online Education with over 25 online undergraduate and graduate programs such as: baking and pastry arts; hotel and lodging management; nonprofit management; and hospitality.

Unique schools of study include a College of Culinary Arts, School of Hospitality, and a Center for Physicians Assistant Studies.

Students practice skills in well-equipped labs with expert instructors. Academic support services for traditional and online students include academic advising, academic support and tutoring, and career services. With over 200,000 alumni, famous graduates of Johnson and Wales University include Emeril Lagasse -- a world renowned chef and restaurateur.

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4New England Institute of Technology 4/548.15%East Greenwich, RI

New England Institute of Technology (NEIT) offers a variety of online and hybrid programs created for working professionals.

Programs include an online Master of Science degree in construction management for construction industry practitioners. Students also utilize Building Information Modeling (BIM) software that they will use in the field.

NEIT offers a Criminal Justice for Working Professionals (CJBX) for public safety, security and law professionals who want to complete a bachelor’s degree. Through an accelerated and flexible academic schedule, students learn in one of Rhode Island’s best equipped forensics labs, a high fidelity crime scene simulation lab, and a 75 seat mock courtroom.

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More About Online Colleges in Rhode Island

Tuition and fees at public, four-year Rhode Island colleges and universities have increased by 47.4% over the last five years, while state funding for postsecondary education costs decreased by 1.3% during this time. While spending cuts are relatively low compared to other states, the dramatic rise in tuition costs have made traditional college programs expensive. Accordingly, prospective students in Rhode Island are increasingly turning to online programs, where tuition and attendance costs are much lower.

While Rhode Island is among the top 25 states in college attendance, reports in recent years indicate several challenges in encouraging diversity and promoting economic development through college programs. To support a well-rounded student body among Rhode Island’s colleges and universities, the state has implemented a few college-completion initiatives. Through participation in programs such as the American Diploma Project and the PARCC Assessment Consortium, Rhode Island offers support to college-bound students who need financial or academic assistance to pursue their degree. These measures are particularly crucial for online students, who often don’t have the means to attend school on campus.

Browse our list of the best online colleges in Rhode Island for more insight into distance learning programs in this state.

NCES Report

As of 2012, NCES reports indicate that 1.6% (1,347) of students in Rhode Island’s Title IV enrolled in exclusively online programs.

  • 1.9% of students at two-year institutions studied entirely online
  • 57.2% were living in Rhode Island
  • 40.3% were living elsewhere in the United States

Increased tuition costs and a growing proportion of distance learners have encouraged schools across the nation to add online programs; Rhode Island’s colleges are no exception. While the state’s largest higher education institutions have offered online learning options for several years, other schools with smaller, private programs have recently followed suit. The Rhode Island Department of Education supports online learning at all levels through its virtual learning initiative, as well as through its membership in the Online Education Database (OEDb).