The Best Online Colleges in Rhode Island | TheBestSchools

by TBS Staff

Updated September 8, 2022 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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As a partner state in the New England Board of Higher Education, Rhode Island offers diverse educational opportunities for students.

Colleges in Rhode Island offer online degree options at the undergraduate and graduate levels. A bachelor's degree meets the educational requirement for many growing careers. For example, financial managers, public relations managers, software developers, and operations research analysts in Rhode Island all earn annual mean wages of over $100,000.

Many of Rhode Island's growing industries prefer to hire candidates with college degrees. Careers in biomedical sciences, business services, and tech often require a bachelor's degree or higher. The Ocean State also offers opportunities in marine ecology, maritime construction, and environmental preservation.

Rhode Island's online colleges offer many enrollment options, including synchronous and asynchronous courses, self-paced classes, and accelerated programs. Demand for online programs has increased amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and many students prefer the flexibility of online learning schedules. Rhode Islanders also benefit from in-state tuition discounts when enrolling at public colleges and universities in the state.

Our list ranks the best online colleges in Rhode Island. We only include regionally accredited schools in our ranking to ensure each school meets the highest standard for granting degrees. Prospective students can use the list to find the right fit for their budget, interests, and career goals.

Top Online Colleges In Rhode Island 2021
#1 Roger Williams University Bristol, RI
#2 University of Rhode Island Kingston, RI
#3 Salve Regina University Newport, RI
#4 Johnson & Wales University Providence, RI
#5 New England Institute of Technology Warwick, RI

Featured Online Schools

The Best Online Colleges in Rhode Island

  1. Roger Williams University

    Bristol, RI

    Roger Williams University is a private liberal arts university founded in 1956. It was originally a branch of Northeastern University the YMCA later took control over. The university was then named for one of the state’s founders, Roger Williams, who was one of the first abolitionists in North America. The university has more than 3,500 students and five academic schools.

    Roger Williams University offers baccalaureate degrees and certificate programs online through the School of Continuing Studies. Bachelor’s degree offerings include community development, social science, industrial technology and healthcare administration, while available certifications include case management, digital forensics, municipal management and school nursing.

    Resources available to online students include academic advising, career services, accessibility services and an online library with librarians available via email, text message or over the phone.

  2. University of Rhode Island

    Kingston, RI

    Founded as an agricultural school in 1890, the main campus of the University of Rhode Island is located in Kinston. URI's campuses in Feinstein Providence, Narragansett Bay, and W. Alton Jones provide educational opportunities to undergraduate and graduate learners throughout the state.

    Among the few online schools in Rhode Island, URI is unique in that it offers an RN to BSN program. The school's online RN to BSN degree can be completed in as little as 15 months. Applicants must hold a registered nurse license as well as a nursing diploma or associate nursing degree with a GPA of 2.6 or above from an institution accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

  3. Salve Regina University

    Newport, RI

    The Sisters of Mercy established Salve Regina University, a nonprofit Catholic university, in 1934. The university’s name comes from a Marian hymn of the same name, which is a Latin phrase which means “Hail, Holy Queen.” The university began its distance learning program in 1985 to keep up with changing technology. Today, the university has more than 2,500 students in attendance. The university keeps enrollment small on purpose, as the university does not utilize teaching assistants in any of its classes.

    Salve Regina University offers baccalaureate degrees and certificate programs through its Center for Adult Education. Bachelor’s degree offerings include accounting, healthcare administration, leadership studies and justice administration, while available certifications include applied behavior analysis and business and management technology.

    Resources for online students include technical support and an online library with librarians available via live chat, email, fax or over the phone.

  4. Johnson & Wales University

    Providence, RI

    Johnson and Wales University is a nonprofit career-centered university established in 1914. Gertrude Johnson and Mary Wales, a pair of local teachers, founded the school and initially opened its doors as a business school. More than 16,000 students attend the university’s four campuses nationwide. Apart from its main campus in Rhode Island, the university has additional campuses in Colorado, Florida and North Carolina.

    Johnson and Wales University offers baccalaureate and master’s degrees online through its School of Online and Continuing Education. Online bachelor’s degrees include baking and pastry arts, human resource management, international business and entrepreneurship. Online master’s degrees include finance, hospitality, criminal justice and nonprofit management.

    Online student resources include a dedicated academic advisor, 24/7 online tutoring, disability accommodations, live online technical support, career services, an online job board and an online library with librarians available via live chat, text message or telephone.

  5. New England Institute of Technology

    Warwick, RI

    With its home campus in East Greenwich, New England Institute of Technology provides more than 50 career technical degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. As one of the premier online colleges in Rhode Island, NEIT offers four bachelor's degrees and seven master's degrees to distance learners.

    Undergraduate programs in automotive service management and rehabilitative sciences give students the skills needed to work within these competitive fields while the school's online criminal justice and RN to BSN programs give working professionals the opportunity to complete their four-year degrees while remaining in the workforce. The school's online and hybrid master's degrees in applied design, cybersecurity defense, construction management, engineering management, information technology, occupational therapy, and public health similarly provide flexible, convenient course options to graduate-level students.

Best Online Colleges

Online Colleges in Rhode Island Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Employment in Rhode Island

Rhode Islanders benefit from above-average salaries and a strong economy. Rhode Island's major industries include biomedical sciences, cybersecurity and data analytics, maritime fields like shipbuilding and environmental preservation, and business services. Transportation and tourism also have strong growth projections.

Rhode Islanders earn salaries above the national average. The mean annual wage in Rhode Island exceeds $60,000, compared to the national mean of $56,310. As of Jan. 2021, the state's 7.2% unemployment rate slightly exceeds the national unemployment rate, and its 110.6 cost of living also exceeds the national average.

By earning a college degree, Rhode Islanders increase their career options and earning potential. More than 1 in 3 Rhode Islanders possess a bachelor's degree or higher, and many of the state's highest-paying and fastest-growing careers require a bachelor's-level education. As the data below show, several of Rhode Island's fastest-growing careers offer six-figure salaries.

The following information covers some of the highest-paying roles employing more than 1,000 individuals in Rhode Island. Salary information applies specifically to Rhode Island, while job growth data pertains to the United States.

Top 10 Fastest-Growing, Highest-Paying Careers in Rhode Island
Career Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) Annual Mean Salary (2020) Education Required
Medical and Health Services Managers 32% $130,620 Bachelor's
Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers 22% $108,060 Bachelor's
Financial Managers 15% $169,070 Bachelor's
Management Analysts 11% $93,980 Bachelor's
Computer and Information Systems Managers 10% $156,980 Bachelor's
Computer Systems Analysts 7% $99,010 Bachelor's
Project Management Specialists and Business Operations Specialists, All Other 6% $88,110 Bachelor's
Financial and Investment Analysts, Financial Risk Specialists, and Financial Specialists, All Other 5% $88,930 Bachelor's
General and Operations Managers 4% $155,290 Bachelor's
Physicians, All Other; and Ophthalmologists, Except Pediatric 4% $206,670 Doctoral
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Online Associate Degrees in Rhode Island

Many Rhode Island colleges also offer online associate degrees. An associate degree offers foundational training in business, technology, the liberal arts, and engineering. The Community College of Rhode Island offers online courses at a significant discount compared to four-year tuition rates.

After completing associate degrees, graduates can enter the workforce in fields like allied healthcare, applied technology, or other vocational fields. A transfer-ready associate degree often meets the general education requirements for a bachelor's degree. With an associate degree, students can transfer into four-year colleges and complete bachelor's degree in about two years.

Online Graduate Degrees in Rhode Island

Rhode Island's universities offer many online graduate programs in diverse disciplines. For example, graduate students can earn an online master's in healthcare management or an online master's in library and information studies from the University of Rhode Island. Roger Williams University offers online graduate degrees in subjects like criminal justice, public administration, and cybersecurity. These programs prepare graduates for careers in growing industries in Rhode Island.

Online programs appeal to working professionals seeking career advancement or to transition into a new career. The flexible schedule of an online program makes it easier to work while completing graduate courses. Many online programs accept transfer credits, which can shorten the degree timeline and save students money.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Most Popular Online College in Rhode Island?

Roger Williams University, the University of Rhode Island, and Johnson & Wales University rank among the most popular online colleges in Rhode Island.

Is Online College Cheaper in Rhode Island?

An online enrollment status can save students money. In addition to potential tuition discounts, distance learners can save on transportation, living expenses, and other costs. However, online programs can also include additional fees, so it's good to do your own research before enrolling.

What Is the Most Popular Degree in Rhode Island?

The most popular degrees in Rhode Island include business, healthcare, education, and the liberal arts. Many online colleges in Rhode Island offer fully online degrees in these areas.

Can You Get a College Degree Completely Online?

Yes. Many colleges and universities offer fully online programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels across a variety of fields.

Do Employers Care if You Have an Online Degree?

An online degree from an accredited college meets the same educational standards as an in-person degree. Often, the degree iself won't even say that it was earned online. As a result, employers will hire candidates with online degrees.

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