Distance education college programs are a rapidly growing business, both across the nation and within the state of Rhode Island. Originally, these programs were chiefly the domain of for-profit schools operating primarily online. Today, however, more and more traditional colleges are establishing their own distance education degree programs.
Rhode Island’s public online colleges consists of the state’s two universities, the University of Rhode Island in Kingston and Rhode Island College in Providence, and the six campuses of the Community College of Rhode Island. Each of these schools offer modest distance learning services. Private not-for-profit colleges offering online education programs include Roger Williams University in Bristol and Johnson & Wales University Providence.
A good way of gaining a better understanding of a state’s higher education environment is to look toward its biggest cities. Rhode Island’s largest city by far – and the state’s educational center – is Providence. The next two sections take a look at the current state of college education in the Providence metropolitan area.
One of the oldest cities in the U.S., Providence is an epicenter of higher education. With notable institutions such as Brown University, Johnson & Wales University and Rhode Island School of Design, the academic and creative landscape is densely packed in this capital city of Rhode Island.
A leading Ivy League university, Brown is recognized for global reach, community service programs and cultural diversity. In 2010, The Princeton Review named it the No. 1 College in America for happiest students. With more than 2,000 classes and 40 academic departments, there is never a shortage of quality degree programs to be had.
Rhode Island College (RIC) was founded in 1854 and was the first public institution in the state. It was named one of the best colleges and universities in the nation by Forbes magazine in 2011 and offers more than 90 undergraduate and 30 graduate programs. The Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and has six campuses, two of which are in Providence.
CCRI offers online and hybrid courses where 80 percent or more of class instruction is delivered online. Due to some of the class content, online and hybrid courses may have three or more required on-site meetings. These meetings help facilitate learning and allow students to gain the hands-on, real-life experience needed for some degrees. RIC has a growing number of classes available online, with more than 50 at latest count. Students may take several professional development and continuing education programs solely online. Brown University also has a range of online options for students. In keeping with its mission to “serve the community, the nation, and the world,” Brown makes available many free, non-credit online courses to non-matriculated students.
Johnson & Wales University (JWU) offers four accredited bachelor’s degree programs and two accredited MBA programs online. The institution emphasizes flexibility in its programs, highlighting that online students can learn industry-relevant skills for career advancement whenever and wherever they want. Additionally, distance learners can take advantage of JWU’s academic advisors, librarians and 24/7 tech support.
Primary college expenses can be broken down into three basic categories: tuition, fees, and room and board. Tuition concerns the basic costs of classroom teaching and other forms of instruction, and rates are exclusive to each school and can vary significantly, particularly between public and private institutions. That said, Rhode Island college students pay an average of $24,182 per year in in-state tuition, making it the most expensive state in the U.S. in which to attend college. The relatively high percentage of private schools, however, could account for this figure.
Students must also contend with an ever-increasing bundle of expenses commonly combined under the heading of room and board. Unfortunately for Rhode Island residents, the cost of living (COL) in their state is significantly higher than in most others, at approximately 23 percent above the national average. This chart provides a breakdown of COL costs for Rhode Island’s major population areas of Providence.
|Urban Area||Composite Index||Housing||Groceries||Utilities||Transportation||Health Care||Misc.|
Tuition, fees and cost of living matter, but what about return on investment (ROI)? Some schools deemed affordable might not have the degree value to ensure solid employment and salary after graduation. And vice versa, a more expensive school might have a tremendous track record for salary and career potential. Therefore, making ROI a key metric in the college selection process could pay off, literally, after graduation. The following colleges had the highest ROI in Rhode Island in 2013:
All prospective college students should be aware of the importance of institutional accreditation when choosing a postsecondary certificate or degree program. Proper accreditation is a prerequisite for receiving federal student aid. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes institutional accreditation of postsecondary schools by regional accrediting agencies. Regional accreditation of Rhode Island colleges and universities is administered by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Colleges and universities in Rhode Island can also earn specialized or programmatic accreditation for individual programs, colleges or departments. For example, the University of Rhode Island has received accreditation for its pharmacy and engineering degree programs by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) and the Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology (ABET), respectively.
Though small in area and population, Rhode Island boasts several highly respected colleges and universities of its own. Rhode Island students can also choose from among a respectable number of online degree programs and courses offered by some of the state’s finest schools. See which colleges – whose academic quality and range of support services deserve special recognition – made our list of the Best Online Colleges in Rhode Island for 2016-2017:
|Rank||School Name||Score||Tuition & Fees||Financial Aid %||#ONLINE PROGRAMS||Student-teacher Ratio||Grad Rate|
|New England Institute of Technology||86.00||73%||3||13:1||48%||
New England Institute of Technology is a private postsecondary school in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Total student enrollment is about 3,000. Degrees at the institute start at the associate level. The highest degrees that the school confers are master’s degrees. On average and when taking full-time, the associate degree can be finished in 18 months. For adults whose original language is not English, the university has the English as a Second Language Bridge Program. Aim of the program is to give adults skills to enter one of the school’s more than 50 degree programs.
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|University of Rhode Island||92.68||83%||3||17:1||59%||
Academic training at the University of Rhode Island started at the turn of the century, in 1892. Learning programs at this Kingston, Rhode Island higher education institution spotlight cultural studies, anthropology, arts, military science, philosophy, healthcare, education, technology and humanities. Adults often enroll in the university’s medicine, energy and environmental programs. Academic programs for first time college students, graduate students and online enrollees are offered. Adults serving at sea can sign up to attend classes offered aboard specific waterway vessels like the Endeavor. Although on-campus tours can be scheduled by prospective students, virtual campus tours are also available.
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Determining which Rhode Island online schools are the best is just the beginning. Students must also take into account a number of important factors when making their final decision to undertake a distance learning degree. Those factors include criteria such as cost, time requirements, major subject and degree level, and graduate success rates. How each factor is weighted in relation to the others depends on the individual. The following tool is designed to allow Rhode Island students to tailor their searches for the right online college based on the factors of their choice.
|RANK||COLLEGE||Tuition And Fees||Enrollment||Accredited||MORE INFO|
|1||University of Rhode Island||$12,450||N/A||YES|
The University of Rhode Island, or URI, has more than 100 fully online courses available online through URI's eCampus. URI currently does not offer online degree programs. Courses are taught using the Sakai web platform and may include videos, podcasts, online discussions, and group work. The URI has a comparison chart between online and on-campus classes on their site for prospective students.
|2||New England Institute of Technology||$20,685||4,086||YES|
The New England Institute of Technology offers the first and only RN to BSN online college degree in Rhode Island. Classes are designed with working adults in mind: Material is available 24/7, courses last just 10 weeks long with four terms offered per year, and students are expected to take classes part-time. The RN to BSN program is a candidate for accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.
|3||Johnson & Wales University-Providence||$26,412||10,718||YES|
Johnson and Wales University offers online college bachelor's degree programs in pastry arts and culinary arts as well as an M.B.A. with a concentration in hospitality. Residents of Arkansas and Wisconsin are not eligible to enroll in any of the University's online college degree programs, and residents of North Carolina are not eligible for the M.B.A. program only.
|4||Roger Williams University||$31,618||4,911||YES|
Roger Williams University's online program, known as RWU Online, offers eight undergraduate degrees, certificates, and individual courses completely online. Students have access to more than 175 scholarly resources with the University's virtual library. RWU Online classes use the Bridges learning management system. In addition to college credit transfer, the University also takes Òlife creditÓ for those with experience in the military and elsewhere.
|5||Salve Regina University||$33,950||2,071||YES|
Salve Regina University provides completely online master's degrees in administrative justice and homeland security, business administration, humanities, international relations, and management. Courses are listed as interactive
Providence College has part and full time options for online students seeking a bachelor's degree, associate degree, or certificate through the School of Continuing Education. Classes use the Sakai learning management system. The College provides a quiz for prospective students wondering if distance learning is the right choice for their lifestyle.
Brown University's Continuing Education program provides two hybrid master's degrees, summer courses for undergraduate students, and 11 pre-college courses for high school students online. Brown also offers free, open courses for high school students in partnership with Canvas Network and free, non-credit courses in partnership with Coursera.
When it comes to academic and personal support, students are not limited to the resources provided by their online college. There are an almost limitless number of internet-based sources of information and services that can be accessed to help keep students focused on their success. The variety of services is also almost limitless and includes subject-specific databases, time management tools, reference materials, creativity boosters and tutoring services. The links below are offered as a primer to the types of resources that can be accessed online, both for all students in general as well as Rhode Island students specifically.