Online Colleges in Rhode Island

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The country’s smallest state is taking big steps when it comes to higher education. Rhode Island has joined Complete College America, a national effort to boost the number of college graduates in each state, which will in turn help sustain the economy.

Online Colleges in Rhode Island

The statewide goal is to have 70% of working-age Rhode Islanders hold at least an associate’s degree by 2025. And so far, things are on track. Graduation rates for lower-income students in the state have surpassed the national average.

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Clearly Rhode Island has lofty goals, but the state is working hard to reach them and provide excellent educational opportunities to its residents.

Overview of Higher Education in Rhode Island

As the country’s smallest state, Rhode Island spans just 48 miles north to south and 37 miles east to west. But despite its size, the state offers an ample variety of schools – research universities, private colleges, a prestigious art school, and an Ivy League university. In all, Rhode Island is home to 13 degree-granting institutions, according to a 2018-2019 report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Three are public schools and 10 are non-profit private schools. There are no for-profit schools. While tuition rates in Rhode Island are above the national average, according to a report from the NCES, it is not among the top 5 most expensive states in which to pursue higher education.

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Tuition and fees for an in-state student at one of Rhode Island’s public 4-year institutions are $12,576, on average. Out-of-state students will pay around $29,998. Students whose chosen major is not available at a Rhode Island school are invited to enroll in programs at schools in nearby states, thanks to the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) and its Regional Student Program (RSP).

This agreement allows residents to enroll in degree programs in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont at a discount if those programs are not offered by public schools within their home state. Altogether, the program provides access to 2000 undergraduate and graduate degree programs through 82 public colleges and universities!

About Online Colleges in Rhode Island

students taking online associates degree in University of Rhode Island

The rigors of college can be especially challenging for students who must also balance a career or family life. Online learning provides a convenient, flexible alternative that can fit around students’ existing schedules.

2018 data from the NCES indicated that 4.6% of Rhode Island’s higher education students were enrolled in online courses exclusively. Another 9.8% of students were participating in a hybrid of online and on-campus courses. Those numbers continue to rise as colleges have increased their online offerings.

Ivy League Brown University opened its first online undergraduate courses in 2013, and the program has continued to grow since. Mid-career professionals may be especially interested in Brown’s Executive Master programs, which blend online and on-campus study in fields like business, cybersecurity, and healthcare.

Johnson & Wales University, a private nonprofit university in Providence, offers a particularly robust selection of online college programs, including more than 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in areas from accounting to tourism and hospitality management, and more than a dozen unique certificate programs.

Students at the largest community college system in New England, Community College of Rhode Island, can choose from more than 200 online courses a year. Nearly all of the postsecondary schools in Rhode Island offer online courses and/or programs.

The courses are taught by the same faculty as traditional on-campus courses, and the students have access to the same resources, including personal advisors, tutoring programs, financial assistance, career placement, and so on.

Scholarships and Financial Aid in Rhode Island

Scholarships and Financial Aid in Rhode Island

If you plan to pursue a degree from a college or university in Rhode Island, the first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The FAFSA can provide access to federal, state, and private financial aid.  Even if you don’t believe you will qualify for need-based assistance, you should still fill out the FAFSA. It is often required for low-interest loans and scholarships as well. It’s important to complete the FAFSA as early as possible. It becomes available on October 1st of each year, and many of the funds are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

The application itself includes questions about your income and the income of your parents (unless you’re considered independent), and the data you provide will be used to determine how much and what type of financial assistance you are offered.

As a Rhode Islander, you have access to an outstanding program called the RI Promise. Through this program, recent Rhode Island high school graduates can pursue an associate degree at the Community College of Rhode Island for four semesters tuition-free, regardless of their income.

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Additionally, many of Rhode Island’s colleges and universities offer their own financial aid programs, both need-based and merit-based. To learn more about these opportunities, check with the financial aid office at the school you have chosen. Private scholarships can offer further financial assistance. Here are a few available to Rhode Islanders:

Scholarship Name Scholarship amount
Academic Advantage $500
Desiree Mesolella Art Scholarship (2) $5000
Stephen Phillips Memorial Scholarship $3000 to $17,000 annually
The Imperial Court of Rhode Island Memorial Scholarship Fund varies
Thomas F. Black, Jr. Memorial Scholarship (2) $25,000

You can find even more scholarships by using search sites like Simply fill in some basic demographic information, and the site will match you with dozens of scholarship opportunities

List of Online Colleges in Rhode Island

Online Colleges in Rhode Island Annual Tuition Application Fee
Johnson & Wales University  $14,823  $0
Roger Williams University  $32,100  $50
Salve Regina University  $37,820  $50


This tiny New England state is packed with exceptional schools, offers a variety of online learning opportunities, and has generous financial aid programs to help with costs. Rhode Island students are on the road to success.

You can also view our Online Colleges in Pennsylvania and Online Colleges in South Carolina guides for more options.

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Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.