Rhode Island may be a small state, but it has a huge need for degree holders. According to a study by Georgetown University, 71 percent of jobs in the state are expected to require postsecondary education by 2020. This may be especially true for the state's growing health care, finance and insurance, and scientific and technical industries. Earning a degree online can help you be prepared for that educational requirement. And if you're already busy with work and/or family duties, online programs can give you the flexibility to take classes when it's convenient for you.

Here's an overview of online colleges in Rhode Island:

  • 6 colleges in the state offer online associate, bachelor's, and/or master's degree programs.
  • Roger Williams University and Salve Regina University offer the most online programs.
  • 2 of the online college in Rhode Island are public institutions; 4 are private, including one faith-based school.
  • Most online schools in the state offer fields of study such as business administration, humanities, hospitality management, and marketing.

One way Rhode Island supports higher education attainment is through the RI Transfers initiative. This program allows students who earn associate degrees at Rhode Island community colleges to transfer as juniors to four-year public colleges in the state. Transferring credits can also help students save on their college costs.

This page offers additional information on online colleges in Rhode Island, including a list of the best and most affordable ones, and state-specific financial aid resources to help you pay for your online degree.

What Makes a Good Online College in Rhode Island?

In order to help students find their ideal distance education program, OnlineColleges.com has compiled multiple rankings of the best online colleges in Rhode Island. The colleges in our rankings are all accredited by nationally recognized accreditation agencies. Many public, private and independent schools in Rhode Island are accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), although there are other national and programmatic agencies that are recognized in the state. Students can learn more about the importance of accreditation from our "What is College Accreditation?" article, and state-specific information about accreditation can be checked at the Rhode Island Department of Education.

Our rankings analyze online colleges in Rhode Island based on multiple factors that have relevance to the online educational experience. Educational quality, financial considerations and academic resources are all important considerations when choosing an online college. For this reason, we use and display data points such as the number of online programs offered, the cost of in-state tuition, the student support services offered, and more. Review the "What Makes a Good Online College?" section of our "About Us" page for a full description of what we consider essential in a distance learning program and why.


Best Online Colleges in Rhode Island for 2019-20

Choosing between a set of schools isn't easy when you're unsure how they compare to each other. To make your job easier, we used data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to compare Rhode Island's online colleges on details such as acceptance rate, net price and number of online programs. The unique methodology we used to create this ranking can be read about in more detail at the bottom of this page.


Salve Regina University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is Salve Regina like?

Salve Regina is a private and coeducational Catholic university known for research opportunities, collaborative mentorship and intercollegiate athletics. The university's 80-acre historical campus also includes the sole collegiate arboretum found in Rhode Island. Salve Regina offers several master's degree and graduate certificate programs that are completely online and asynchronous.

What online programs are at Salve Regina?

Online Salve Regina students may choose from master's degree programs in business administration (MBA), humanities, international relations and more. Graduate studies certificate programs lead to four-course certifications for continued learning without the need to pursue a master's degree. There is also a flexible and holistic online RN to B.S. in Nursing program.

Salve Regina uses Canvas to manage online learning. While most of the university's online courses may be completed entirely online, some may also be offered as evening classes on campus or at Salve Regina's Center for Adult Education for those looking for a hybrid experience.

What online resources does Salve Regina offer?

Through a partnership with online career network Handshake, Salve Regina's Office of Career Development helps students and alumni find internships and job opportunities. Military service members and veterans, as well as eligible dependents, may also avail of veterans' and Yellow Ribbon benefits at Salve Regina. As a military-friendly school, the university also has an articulation agreement for credit exchange and transfer with nearby Naval War College.


Roger Williams University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is RWU like?

RWU is named for Roger Williams, 17th-century theologian and founder of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. The private liberal arts university, founded in 1956, is known for its small average class size and unique degree programs in architecture, construction management, historic preservation, law and marine biology.

What online programs are at RWU?

Online RWU programs are available for students of every age and type — from first-time college-goers to adult career changers, as well as postgraduate learners. Of note is RWU's cybersecurity program, available at the associate and bachelor's degree level, and the related certificate program in digital forensics. Online cybersecurity master's degree and graduate certificate programs are also offered by RWU's School of Justice Studies.

RWU uses Bridges/Sakai to manage a flexible and asynchronous online learning environment. Even local students are expected to use Bridges as a supplement to their classwork.

What online resources does RWU offer?

RWU offers a robust set of online resources and services for all its students. Apart from Bridges/Sakai, the University provides centralized server rCloud use, Google accounts to use with all Google apps and access to online tutorial platform Lynda at no additional cost. RWU also offers its own student app suite on both Android and iOS.


University of Rhode Island

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is URI like?

Multi-campus URI is well-known for notable alumni in fields such as politics, professional sports and entertainment. Among its prominent graduates are journalist Christiane Amanpour, basketball player Lamar Odom and actor J.T. Walsh. The public research, land grant and sea grant university started offering online education and distance learning in 2012.

What online programs are at URI?

URI has several online graduate degree and certificate programs. Distance learners may work toward master's degrees in dietetics, cybersecurity and language education. The RN to B.S. in Nursing program features seven-week accelerated courses, which can lead to efficient learning and graduation in as few as 15 months. Graduate certificates in digital forensics, cybersecurity and digital literacy are also offered, but are not eligible for financial aid.

Until recently, URI used Sakai as its learning management system. A planned migration to BrightSpace starts August 2019.

What online resources does URI offer?

The Digital Initiatives unit of URI's library system hosts an online portal to a myriad of digital collections. Students are also given access to applications such as the Office 365 suite, Qualtrics survey software and MathWorks products like MATLAB and Simulink. There's also e-Campus, a system that centralizes online functions of important school services and communications.


Community College of Rhode Island

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is CCRI like?

As the largest public comprehensive community college in New England, CCRI has been committed to career training and academic transfer programs for over 45 years. A diverse student population, 70 percent part-time and 60 percent over the age of 25, demonstrates the school's mission to offer quality education to both recent high school graduates and adults returning to college.

What online programs are at CCRI?

As part of a partnership with Ed2Go, CCRI offers online career training and certification programs for industries like healthcare, finance and education. Students can earn an associate degree in business administration completely online, as well. CCRI online learning is usually managed with Blackboard.

There are also online academic courses offered at CCRI, which differ from on-campus equivalents only in delivery — content and cost are the same. These courses allows students to bring online flexibility into the school's on-campus programs to help them accommodate the needs of work and/or family.

What online resources does CCRI offer?

Students can use MyCCRI online accounts to access most school support services, like checking grades or managing tuition payments. Several types of financial aid are offered, as well as financial aid workshops and educational videos.

The school holds over 70 articulation agreements throughout New England. CCRI associate degrees may be transferred to count toward completion of a four-year program elsewhere. There is also a reverse transfer program that can help students apply credits earned at other schools toward a CCRI associate degree.

Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/

Affordable Online Colleges in Rhode Island for 2019-20

The following list names the schools in Rhode Island that offer online degree programs at the lowest tuition costs for the state. Tuition figures are sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics and reflect in-state tuition (when in-state tuition is available) for all students, including online students.

Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/

Financial Aid Resources in Rhode Island

Source: Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of CollegeXpress, a division of Carnegie Dartlet. Copyright © 2020 by CollegeXpress.

Student Loans in Rhode Island

Though Rhode Island does not offer any student loans through the state proper, a nonprofit quasi-state authority has stepped in to provide assistance to students. The Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) does not receive any funds from the state, but does provide low-cost state-based loans exclusively to Rhode Island students. Be sure to seek out scholarship and grant money before relying on student loans. If you find that you are still in need of financial assistance, you will need to fill out the FAFSA and supply information about your family's financial situation in order to apply for federal student loans. RISLA and other private loan programs have their own application processes.

RISLA Student Loan
Since RISLA is a nonprofit state-based agency, they claim to be able to offer some of the country's lowest fixed rates on education loans. In order to be eligible to apply, the student must be a Rhode Island resident, but there is no restriction on the amount of credits the student needs to earn per semester in order to keep the loan (full-time, half-time, and even less than half-time are all acceptable).

  • Application deadline:  Not specified
  • Award amount:  Up to $40,000 per year

Explore how student loans work in the Ultimate Guide to Student Loans.

Additional Resources for Financial Aid in Rhode Island

  • College Planning Center of RI offers both online and in-person resources to help students search for scholarships, plan for college, and learn about financial aid.

Costs for Out-of-State Students in Rhode Island

It's commonly known that it's typically cheaper to attend college in your home state than in another state due to the dreaded cost of out-of-state tuition, but there's good news for New England residents. Students from any New England state, including Rhode Island, can attend college at a public university in other states at the in-state tuition rate as long as the major they are enrolling in is not offered in their home state. You can search for programs  here. 

It may sound too good to be true, but it's true indeed: during the 2016-2017 academic year, more than 9,000 New England residents saved some $60 million in tuition thanks the RSP (New England Regional Student Program) Tuition Break. On average, a full-time RSP student receives a tuition break of $8,033. Here's to making in-state tuition (or close to it) a possibility if you are dreaming of heading to college in Rhode Island. Be sure to speak with an adviser for more insight into your particular educational goals as an out-of-state student. 

Best Careers in Rhode Island

Rhode Island's economy is moving away from its traditional roots in industries such as manufacturing, fishing and agriculture. The Ocean State's economy has come to be powered by financial, business and service-oriented industries. Increasingly, a college degree is required for many of the high demand jobs in Rhode Island. But what degree should you earn, and what job should you pursue after earning it?

The data compiled in this section covers statewide employment, job projections and average salaries for some of the best jobs to have in Rhode Island. With it, students can determine which majors and career paths might make the most sense for them to pursue.

EmploymentEmployment GrowthMedian High School SalaryMedian Bachelor's Salary

Top Rhode Island Industries

*Industry rankings determined by annual mean wage, employment, projected growth and location quotient. Data sourced from the BLS, 2019 dataset.

Top IndustriesEmploymentProjected GrowthAverage Salary
Pipeline transportation123,5907%$81,851
Rail transportation184,3007%$73,612
Educational services; state, local, and private419,8506%$64,795
Hospitals; state, local, and private377,6206%$65,864
Waste management and remediation services195,2107%$67,208
Heavy and civil engineering construction242,2007%$64,503
Construction of buildings230,8707%$68,852
Air transportation171,1007%$72,122
Support activities for transportation237,4006%$64,090

Rhode Island is a major freight corridor in the northeastern U.S. Rail freight moves along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, while the bulk of marine freight moves through the Port of Davisville and Port of Providence. Air freight, meanwhile, moves through three primary airports. Students who earn degrees in supply chain management, logistics, human resources or other related fields could be well-positioned to pursue careers in the different kinds of transportation Rhode Island has to offer, helping to ship goods and resources across the rest of the United States.

Construction is another major economic sector for Rhode Island, both on its own and as part of the transportation industry. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation has been implementing an in-depth 10-year plan known as RhodeWorks, designed to improve the infrastructure of Rhode Island's bridges, roads, bike paths, ferry services and more. Plans for storm water management and other waste and remediation services are also being targeted by the state government. Between all the different construction opportunities in the state, Rhode Island's Department of Labor and Training predicts a 36-percent rise in general construction employment from 2012-2022, with another 22 percent spike in employment for civil and heavy engineers.

In the section below, we'll drill down at the data in a specific metro area and take a closer look at several of the top careers in the Providence-Warwick region.

Providence-Warwick, RI-MA Metro Area

Total Population
Median salary for high school grads
Median salary with a bachelor's degree
% of the population enrolled in college or grad school
Median rent

Finance and financial services are an important industry in Rhode Island, and the state capital of Providence ranks among the leading financial centers in the New England region. Talented financial managers are among the high paying jobs in Providence, as their skills and knowledge are needed to help those leading financial centers handle their assets wisely.

Postsecondary educational administrators, meanwhile, are among the most needed jobs in Providence. Just under 16,000 people were employed in the education sector in Providence as of 2017, the state's Department of Labor and Training reports. Yet with institutions such as Brown University, Providence College and Rhode Island College in the area, the need for qualified educators is high -- and it may only continue to grow as Baby Boomer teachers continue to retire and leave the field.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
Financial ManagersBachelor's degree$159,0502,770
Electronics Engineers, Except ComputerBachelor's degree$120,7201,200
Medical and Health Services ManagersBachelor's degree$128,1502,180
PharmacistsDoctoral or professional degree$124,8401,760
Education Administrators, PostsecondaryMaster's degree$118,710920

*Career rankings determined by annual mean wage, employment, projected growth and location quotient. Data sourced from the BLS, 2019 dataset.