First Look: Salve Regina University (RI)

A walk around the Salve Regina University campus will literally set you back a century in time to America’s Gilded Age. The waterfront of Newport, Rhode Island, one of America’s wealthiest communities, is one of the nicest places to host to a small college. There are plenty of places for students to dine, drink, shop and be entertained in Newport, and free bus service to take you to them. I dropped by Salve Regina for a visit and also made a Pinterest page.

Salve Regina University is a small school with around 2,100 undergraduates as well as about 400 graduate students. Opened by the Sisters of Mercy in 1947, Salve Regina University was founded as a women’s college offering degrees in Education, Nursing  and Social Work. The university has been co-ed for over four decades, but two-thirds of the undergraduates are women.

The university’s 80 acre campus has grown around seven 19th Century estates. Salve Regina was the first school that I have visited where the newest building, the chapel, was designed to blend in with the magnificence of the older ones. While freshmen live in more traditional residence halls, upper-class students share mansion-like dwellings. Interestingly, 40 percent of the undergraduates live off campus, sharing homes in Newport.

It’s not hard to get into Salve Regina. Over 70 percent of the students who apply Early Action or Regular Decision are accepted. Over half of the students who chose to come were admitted Early Action Salve Regina is test optional, but around half of all applicants still submit scores.the average SAT for the class that will arrive this fall was 1220 and the average GPA was 3.4. Nursing admissions, however, are more selective. Less than half get in. Admissions to nursing and the education programs still require test scores.  Students who apply to enter a freshman class also consider the New England state universities, other small religiously affiliated schools (Stonehill, Saint Anselm’s, Sacred Heart, Fairfield, among others) and Endicott College, located on Massachusetts’ North Shore near Boston. The campus attracts students mainly from New England, New Jersey and New York. 

It’s tempting to walk around the Salve Regina campus and downtown Newport and ask yourself “what’s not to like?” The answer depends on what you looking for in college beyond a nice campus and college town. 

What did I like about this school, besides the campus and the town?

  • The average need-based scholarship covers over half of tuition and fees and it can be combined with a merit-based award. It is possible that a student in the upper third of the admit pool could pay less to attend Salve Regina than the state school in a neighboring state. This has to help freshman retention (currently 85 percent) as well as the graduation rate. Between two-thirds and 70 percent of a freshman class finishes on time. 
  • In addition to Nursing and Education, Salve Regina offers several majors that you’re less likely to see at a school this small: Administration of Justice, Cultural and Historic Preservation, Health Care Administration and Management, Interactive Media Arts, Mathematical Finance, Medical Technology and Social Work. With the exceptions of the digital media and design programs, Medical Technology and Nursing, virtually any major can also be a minor. 
  • You’re not likely to have a class with more than 35 students, even in an introductory course in subjects such as Biology, Psychology or Economics. This is more important in the pre-professional majors, especially Education and Nursing, where faculty can help their students while they are receiving practical training outside of the classroom.
  • The upper-class on-campus housing is really nice as was Wakehurst, the “student’s student center.” It felt quite comfortable and lived in, much like a fraternity or sorority house without the mess. 
  • I was surprised that Salve Regina played football, given the small enrollment of the school, and the lack of a team at Roger Williams University, a much larger school nearby that is in the same sports conference. However, their football team has won no fewer than seven of eleven games in a season since many of the graduating seniors arrived on campus as freshmen. The school is also quite successful at Men’s Rugby, Baseball, Men’s Hockey and Sailing. 
  • The vendor for the dining hall is Bon Appetit. While I’m no culinary expert. I have eaten in plenty of college dining halls over the past seven years. Among the national firms that provide dining services, Bon Appetit colleges have the best tasting food.  Good food, nice dining halls and cafes’ leave strong impressions on a campus visit. 

What did I like less? It depends on what you seek from a college. 

  • The alumni base is thin after you get beyond Providence, Boston and New York City. But most of the students already come from either New England or the New York area. Students who remain near Newport or return home should have enough connections to help them find work and remain connected to their alma mater.
  • The interior of the freshman hall that I visited did not contrast well with the beauty of the rest of the campus. It’s just my opinion that a more expensive school should have a more expensive feel in the living quarters, especially on a campus as nice as this one. 
  • Given that the university plays 20 sports, I did not get a “spirit and sports” vibe from the students that I met, even though a fair percentage are likely to be varsity athletes. But if you love sports and are content to cheer on your friends who compete, Salve Regina will have more than enough opportunities for you.
  • If you’re shopping this school vs. the University of Rhode Island or your home state school, the resident charges will almost always come out lower. 

Overall, Salve Regina is a very good small school that serves its target market very well. The campus and environs and the academic options also present an opportunity to attract students from outside the university’s more traditional markets. Salve Regina is a school with a lot to like, provided the costs work out.  

Report Card: Salve Regina University

  • Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: A
  • Freshman Retention: B+
  • Costs: B
  • Curriculum: A
  • Community: A
  • Comforts: B+
  • Connections: B+ (Boston, Providence, New York)/C (elsewhere)

Want to know more about this school, or another? Contact me at or call me at 609-406-0062.

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