Distant Revisit: University of Rhode Island

It’s been almost seven years since I visited the University of Rhode Island, one of the more popular out-of-state public options for New Jersey residents.  It’s easy to see why the school is appealing to them. The main campus is smaller and less intimidating than the University of Delaware, Penn State-University Park and the University of Maryland-College Park. You can walk across in about 40 minutes, and never set foot on a bus. I updated my Pinterest page so that you can take a look at this school. 

The University of Rhode Island (URI) has fewer than 14,000 undergraduates. The majority of a freshman class comes from outside the state. The university can house 40 percent of the student body, high for a state university, and its location offers upper class students the opportunity to live on the beach along Narraganset Bay.

URI’s student/faculty ratio of 16 to 1 would be an ambitious goal for a much larger school. Studies of the sea, including marine science, oceanography and ocean engineering, textile design and marketing, nursing and pharmacy are signature programs along with joint degrees in foreign language (French, German, Spanish or Chinese) with either business or engineering.

URI is not selective. Seventy-one percent of the students who applied to be in the Class of 2021 were accepted, but the Nursing and Pharmacy programs are far more competitive. The middle 50 percent scored between 1090 and 1260 on the SAT and between 23 and 27 on the ACT Composite. With the exception of the Nursing and Pharmacy students as well as those in the Honors Program, a student in the middle of the admit pool at Rutgers-New Brunswick is likely to be in the upper quarter of the pool at URI. 

What have I liked about URI?

  • URI has steadily improved its retention and graduation rates since I visited. Over half of the students (53%) who entered as freshmen in 2013 graduated in four years, excluding those enrolled in five-year programs or towards degrees in Pharmacy. Retention has improved from 82 percent when I first visited in 2012 to 85 percent for the freshmen who arrived in 2017. 
  • The possibilities of scholarships are realistic. Merit scholarships are quite achievable for residents and non-residents. A recalculated GPA of 3.2 on a 4.0 scale at the end of your junior year, a minimum required SAT score of 1130 or ACT score of 23, demonstrated leadership and involvement in your school and/or community qualifies applicants for consideration.
  • Admission to the honors program is also achievable for a very good student. A high school GPA of 3.5 or higher combined with SAT scores over 1300 or a 3.8 GPA or higher by itself will make an applicant competitive for the Honors Program. The Honors Program not only includes honors-level coursework, but also a year-long colloquium.
  • The opportunity to take Grand Challenge courses. These are small seminar courses taught by faculty members and offered exclusively to first-year students. These courses are focused around current events and global issues across four areas: Fine Art and Literature, Letters, Natural Science and Social Science. Each course also has a companion course in the instructor’s academic department that can be taken as a follow-up to help fulfill personal interest as well as General Education requirements.
  • Depending on their major, URI students can literally use the state as their campus. The university operates satellite campuses in downtown Providence, on Narragansett Bay, the university’s oceanic research center and in West Greenwich, its environmental education center.
  • URI offers well-structured programs in International Business and International Engineering.  Each student in these programs does a semester aboard using their chosen language as well as a six-month paid assignment with an employer overseas. Students have worked for companies such as Bayer AG, Hasbro, Motorola and Volkswagen, among other employers. 
  • This is one of the best places to learn Chinese, a critical global language. URI is one of only 12 universities in the nation that is a Chinese Language Flagship partner school. Flagship Scholars go through an intensive Mandarin Chinese language immersion program that may combined with any academic major. They spend one or multiple summers in China, enrolling at Nanjing University for a full semester of study. They also complete a six-month professional internship with a company or NGO.
  • You can learn about the pharmaceutical industry, but you don’t need to become a pharmacist. URI’s Bachelor’s in Pharmaceutical Science is designed for students who want to work in research, sales or marketing positions in the pharmaceutical or health and beauty industries.
  • There are large alumni bases in Boston and New York. Nearly 12,000 URI alumni live and work in the Boston area and nearly 11,000 are based in and around The Big Apple. 

But no college is perfect, including URI.

  • I have seen fancier student centers than URI’s Memorial Student Union at the other state schools that prospective students were most likely to consider, and there are fewer student organizations than you might expect for a school with this many students.This might seem like a minor point, but the student center appears to be a less important hub of activity at URI than it is at a school like the Penn State or the University of Delaware.
  • While URI has had success in men’s basketball, it is not noted as a “spirit and sports school.” Greek life is going to be focused on its own social calendar instead of athletic rivalries. 
  • Kingston has a small retail mix for a college town. You really need a car, or patience with the buses, to go to Newport or Providence. This also applies to students who want to work off campus during the school year. 

Rhode Island has a much smaller economy than its neighbors, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and fewer financial resources to dedicate towards higher education. But URI has several interesting and successful academic programs as well as a reasonable price tag for residents and non-residents alike. This is a state school that can truly change lives for the better for those who take advantage of these programs.

Report Card: University of Rhode Island

  • Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: B/B
  • Freshman Retention: B+
  • Costs: B+
  • Curriculum: A
  • Community: B+
  • Comforts: B+
  • Connections: B+

Need help on the journey to college? Contact me at stuart@educatedquest.com or call me at 609-406-0062.

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