First Impressions: Providence College (RI)
Providence College was the last school that I visited during my recent trip to Rhode Island. I had hoped to visit this school last year, but the pandemic prevented that from happening. However, I was able to gather some insights about Providence College athletics. This includes an interview with Matt Lepine, who was Academic All-Big East in cross country and track last year. I gathered a few photos on Pinterest, and invite you to read on about my visit.
Providence College has become a more popular school over the past ten years.
Full-time undergraduate enrollment has gone up from 3,900 in 2011 to more than 4,100 in 2021. More impressive, Providence has retained no less than 90 percent of each freshman class enrolled each year. Eighty-two percent of the students who entered in 2014 finished in four years, though some also opt to remain on campus for an advanced degree.
Providence’s four-year grad rate is better than all but four public universities in the US, However, it is not as high as it is for other schools that might also be on applicant’s lists including Boston College (89%), Georgetown (90%), Holy Cross (90%) or Villanova (89%). But it is higher than Fairfield University (80%), a Jesuit school in Connecticut that has about the same number of undergrads.
It’s getting tougher to get into Providence College.
This school attracts a B+ student who might be looking at other Catholic colleges such as Boston College, Georgetown, Holy Cross and Villanova as well as Big East public rival UConn and other Catholic schools such as Fairfield or Stonehill.
In 2011, according to their Office of Institutional Research, Providence accepted 67 percent of all applicants. This college has become more selective ever since. Forty-seven percent of the applicants for this year’s freshman class were accepted. Test optional since 2006, Providence ‘Considers’ test scores in admissions. The average SAT for the Class of 2024 was a 1210 and the average ACT Composite was a 27.
Between 2011 through 2021, Providence has gotten around a fifth of the accepted applicants to deposit. One reason is that the school is quite expensive. Direct charges–tuition, mandatory fees, room and board–exceed $72,000 for the current academic year. The college reports that students who have a high school GPA of 3.8 or higher–about 30 percent of a freshman class– may receive scholarships that range between $20,000 and $35,000. Providence is not likely to undercut Home State U for most students, though it could turn out to be less expensive than Neighboring State U for the better students.
There’s a lot of academic rigor in a Providence College education.
All Providence students, regardless of major, complete a four-semester Western Civilization aka ‘Civ’ requirement as well as:
- Two courses in Philosophy (including Ethics) and two in Theology
- One core courses each in Fine Arts, Natural Science, Quantitative Reasoning and Social Science
- Demonstrate proficiency in Civic Engagement (1 course), Intensive Writing (2 courses), Diversity (1 course) and Oral Communication (1 course)
Providence allows students to “double dip” to use core, major and elective courses to fulfill the proficiencies.
It is harder to double major at a school that has 17 required courses among the 40 that are necessary to earn a bachelor’s degree, but it is possible. Students can also carry more than one minor.
If you are interested in a liberal arts major, Providence makes it fairly easy to carry a business minor. This school also makes it fairly easy for business majors to carry majors and minors in business disciplines. Overall, Providence has 47 majors and 34 minors.
Providence College seems like ‘a smaller Boston College’.
I’ve seen Boston College (BC) on many college lists. But unless you’re a football fan, or really want to be near Boston, Providence College is quite similar academically, but with fewer than half as many undergrads. Like BC, Providence has great depth in undergraduate business education, the liberal arts and teacher education. Both schools place a major emphasis on community service. Providence College took that one step further, to offer a major and minor in Public and Community Service.
Both schools are D-1 in varsity sports. Providence competes in the Big East. Boston College, which was part of an earlier Big East, competes in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Both schools are legitimate “hockey schools.” Boston College, the larger school, nearly 10,000 undergrads ranked 10th in Men’s Hockey attendance in 2019-20 and 21st in Women’s Hockey attendance a year later. Providence, which has around 4,100, ranked 33rd and 30th. Providence was NCAA National Champion in Men’s Hockey in 2015.
I had always thought of both schools as “basketball schools.” Providence has many ties to college and professional basketball. NBA stars Lenny Wilkins and Jimmy Walker played for Providence. So did great coaches Billy Donovan and John Thompson. Donovan, Rick Barnes, Dave Gavitt, Pete Gillen, Joe Mullaney, Rick Pitino and Gary Walters have coached there. Boston College has had its share of coaching legends: Bob Cousy, Chuck Daly, Gary Williams and Jim O’Brien. But Providence, the smaller school, has a larger basketball legacy.
However, there are significant differences between Providence and BC
Boston College is located in Chestnut Hill, a tony suburb of Boston. You can get into the Hub City on the ‘T’ from there. Providence College is located eight minutes from downtown Providence by bus, car or Uber. But the neighborhood that immediate surrounds campus is nothing like Chestnut Hill or College Hill, where you can mingle with students from Brown and Rhode Island School of Design. While Providence seniors, as well as juniors who receive permission, live near campus in privately owned housing, the students seemed more likely to socialize on campus, downtown or on College Hill. There’s no Greek life at Providence.
Both institutions have relationships to the Catholic faith. I have not walked around BC’s campus, so I cannot describe that setting. However, I took two tours of the Providence campus, the general tour and a tour of the School of Business. Whether you are outside or inside campus buildings, you are constantly reminded by crosses and other symbols that Providence College is a Catholic university. But while Boston College is the one of 28 Jesuit colleges in America, Providence College is the only school that was founded and still operated by Dominican Friars. Providence welcomes students of all faiths, though 70 percent of the undergraduates are Catholic.
There is an area that I must cover, since parents consider it: rankings.
Along with Fairfield University, Providence College has topped or ranked near the top among Regional Universities-North in US News for several years. I have to wonder who goes to look at those rankings versus those for National Research Universities such as Georgetown (23rd), Boston College (36th), Villanova (49th) or Seton Hall (127th) or National Liberal Arts Colleges to find Holy Cross (35th).
Villanova and Elon were once ranked as Regional Universities. Now they are ranked as National Research Universities. While they no longer ranked first or second in their group, they are easier to find in a ranking where families cross shop several schools. It’s not that a school became “better” or “worse.” But I’m likely to know less about Providence when it does not appear on the same list as other schools in my considered set.
Providence can take students to where they want to be as alumni.
Among the more than 47,000 Providence College alumni registered in LinkedIn.com, about a fifth (19%) remain in the Providence area. Interesting to me, while Boston College has more than triple the alumni base and has over 48,000 alumni in and around the Hub City, it’s quite possible for Friars to have plenty of company in either Boston or New York.
- Boston College alumni base: Boston 42%, New York 17%,
- Providence College: alumni base: Boston 26%, New York 17%
Overall, the Providence College campus is very nice.
I was especially impressed by Harkins Hall, the very first campus building, the Ryan Center for Business Studies, the Slavin Center (pictured) as well as the Concannon Fitness Center. However, I was not wowed by the first-year on-campus housing options, given the costs of the school. While the campus is atop a hill, it is easy to walk across it in about 15 minutes. I’m on the fence about having a car at this school. A car is useful if you want to get away from city limits. But I found parking really tight around Brown and RISD when I visited those campuses on College Hill. I doubt that downtown parking by the Dunkin’ Donuts Center for basketball or hockey games is much fun.
I also got to talk with more students than I normally do at most other colleges, because I was attending an open house. Providence has student ambassadors as well as a Friar’s Club that give campus tours. The Friars Club students wear white blazers on tour and also work as hosts for other events, including performances and hockey games. I gathered an impression that the students were happy with the academics, classroom buildings and fitness facilities on campus. The student-run Board of Programmers was working on a Saturday to make sure the day’s events for the students (the Open House visitors were well cared for) ran smoothly. I had never seen that before at a college on a Saturday afternoon.
Providence College is an A+ school for B+ students who want a liberal arts education, even if they study business, and want to go to college in a city. You don’t need to be Catholic to come here, but it helps, given some of the required courses in the curriculum and the high percentage of Catholic students on campus. This school also has large alumni networks in the cities where students are most likely to work after graduation. However, Providence College might not be the most affordable option for many families who are shopping public vs. private college options.
Report Card: Providence College (NY)
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: A/A
- Freshman Retention: A
- Costs: C+
- Curriculum: A
- Community: A
- Comforts: B
- Connections: A (Boston, Providence, New York, Hartford, DC)/B (Philadelphia)/C (elsewhere)
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