Rhode Island’s Educational Legacy
One of the original 13 colonies and, in May of 1776, the very first to declare its independence from the British Crown, Rhode Island is also the only state whose official name is too long to fit on a license plate. Technically, the nation's smallest and 2nd most densely populated state is called Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. The 13th and final colony to ratify the U.S. Constitution, Rhode Island became a state in 1790.
By that time, its oldest university has already been in operation for more than a quarter century. Brown University was established in 1764. In the spirit of this tiny state's huge name, the school was initially called The College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. It wisely shortened it to Brown following a generous 1804 endowment by a benefactor of that surname. At the time, a semester’s tuition was about $5.
One of the original nine Colonial Colleges, the Ivy League institution located in Providence is, overall, the seventh oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the 15th best school in the U.S., this private research university is home to about 8,500 students, all of whom must pass through a rigorous 8% admission rate.
Brown is also distinguished as the first private university in the U.S. to accept applicants regardless of religious affiliation. And in 1847, it established what is now the Ivy League’s oldest engineering program.
Another of Rhode Island top private schools, the Roman Catholic-founded Providence College is the only North American college of any kind to be administered by Dominican Friars. With a little over 4000 students, the liberal arts school distinguishes itself by a 12-to-one student-to-faculty ratio and by the fact that all courses are instructed by full-time professors.
Uniquely, at 10, private schools substantially outnumber public schools in Rhode Island. Only three of the latter exist. The oldest and largest of these is the University of Rhode Island. Founded in 1854 as a teacher’s college, the University is home to about 15,500 students today. In addition to its exceedingly popular nursing and communications programs, Rhode Island offers its students more than 200 study abroad options.
- See who ranks as the best college and university in Rhode Island today.
- Brown University ranks among The 100 Best Universities in the World.