An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in Providence

by Jennifer Croley
An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in Providence

Recently named by MSN as one of the top ten places to live in America, Providence is the capital and largest city in Rhode Island and second largest city in New England. Providence offers a great quality of life, many excellent higher education options, and strong business opportunities.

Home to over 178,000 people, Providence is located in the Northeast corner of Rhode Island, the nation's smallest state. Because Rhode Island is small, just 1,214 square miles, it is possible for residents to live on the water and work or attend school just about anywhere in the state.

The average commute to work in Rhode Island is just 15 minutes, an enviable number for most East Coast residents. And with housing prices below both the Northeast and U.S. median, the state's affordable housing makes it an attractive destination.

A short commute and affordable housing are among Providence's list of pluses, but various attractions also draw many to the area. A hot restaurant scene and vibrant nightlife provide fun-filled evenings, while Providence Place offers a full day of shopping, dining, and entertainment. History buffs will appreciate Providence's East Side neighborhood which features the largest contiguous area of National Historic Society-designated buildings in the nation.

Area attractions also include fourteen museums, Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum, a zoo, the award-winning WaterFire sculpture, and Providence Performing Arts Center, featuring Broadway theater, local, and regional stage performances. Providence is also home to Trinity Repertory Company, a Tony winning theater group. Providence is also just an hour away from the Rhode Island coastline, Boston, and Cape Cod.

Going to School in Providence

Rhode Island has the largest number of college students per capita in the United States, and 67,000 of them attend school in the Providence. The area's eight colleges and universities offer a diverse list of higher education choices including an ivy league university, a leading architecture, design, and art school, and the world's largest culinary and hospitality educator.

Named as one of America's Best Colleges (15th overall in the nation) by the U.S. News and World Report 2006 college rankings, Brown University is a first-class higher education choice located in Providence. This ivy league school offers outstanding undergraduate and graduate programs including top-tier English, philosophy, psychology, and medical programs.

Rhode Island School of Design is another notable institution located in Providence. Offering 16 undergraduate and 17 graduate majors in art and design, the school is best known for its top-notch architecture programs.

Students interested in culinary arts, hospitality, business, or technology may want to consider Johnson & Wales University, a career university in Providence. Famous Johnson & Wales graduate Emeril Lagasse can attest to the advantages of graduating from a career university.

According to Miriam Weinstein, Director of Public Relations for Johnson & Wales, the advantages of a career university such as Johnson & Wales include the school's immediate focus on career preparation. "Students who study at Johnson & Wales University get a start on their careers much sooner than those who attend a traditional university," notes Weinstein. "During their first two years, students become part of the ‘real-world' through a specifically created curriculum that meets employers' needs, along with the practical experience, hands-on internships, and co-ops that students are required to complete. Traditional universities save that part for the final years, oftentimes at the expense of the students who realize that maybe they have chosen the wrong career path."

Higher education institutions in the Providence area are as follows:

Public or private, traditional or career, two-year or four-year – the choices for a prospective student can seem endless, but making a list of priorities and matching schools to those priorities is a good way to narrow the list. Some characteristics to consider include school size, programs offered, faculty to student ratio, activities, housing options, and cost.

According to Jim Miller, Dean of Admission for Brown University, practical considerations are important, but students shouldn't let them outweigh their feelings about a school. "Of course students need to be practical about the search process, but in the end, choosing a school is an emotional decision," observes Miller.

"Students should listen to their stomachs and their hearts when making their choices. Many times students feel compelled to go to a certain school, but if it's not comfortable, if it doesn't feel right, it's not the right school for you, no matter how good it seems on paper or how good someone else says it is," remarks Miller.

Picking a school that feels right is just part of the process for prospective students – they also need to be admitted to the school for it to be a perfect fit. So what can students do to increase their chances of getting in? Besides completing applications on time and submitting required paperwork, Miller advises students to make sure they don't undersell themselves on their applications. "Sometimes students think what they have done is not important, but a job, participation in a choir, or other activity can be very important," comments Miller.

"If students assume things won't be important to schools, they may undersell themselves, and more importantly, their applications won't clearly reflect what they've done and what's important to them," observes Miller.

Although most students don't focus on the college application process until their senior year in high school, Miller advises students to make choices early that will help their chances of getting in to the schools on their list.

According to Miller, "the most important thing students can do in advance of the application process is make good course selections from the beginning of their high school careers. Often, students don't think about how the classes they take will affect them until they are applying to schools, and then it's too late. Taking the most challenging courses they can, as soon as they can, will put students on the right track. That doesn't mean they need to take every honors or advanced placement course, but they should try to challenge themselves," says Miller.


The cost of attending school in Providence varies. Undergraduate tuition for the area's ivy league school, Brown University, was $30,672 for the 2004-2005 academic year compared with tuition costs of $6,202 for residents at the University of Rhode Island in 2003-2004.

Non-residents, however, do pay significantly more at the area's public institutions with non-resident tuition charges at the University of Rhode Island running just over $16,000 in 2003-2004.

Financial Aid

With annual tuition bills of thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars, figuring out how to pay for school can be a major source of stress for prospective students. Fortunately, there are many sources of financial aid to help students fund their education.

The financial aid starting point for most students is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA serves as the application for all federal aid programs, and, in Rhode Island, it also serves as the application for state aid programs including the CollegeBoundfund Academic Promise Scholarship and the Rhode Island State Grant Program. Students can visit FAFSA on the Web for more information and to complete the FAFSA online.

Some schools may also require a school-specific form or the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE. More than 600 schools and scholarship programs now use information from the PROFILE to determine eligibility for nonfederal financial aid.

Rhode Island also has several foundations, associations, and state programs offering scholarships to help students fund their education. Find more information at the websites below:

Employment in Providence

Forbes recently named Providence among the top 50 places in the nation for careers and business. This is good news for students who decide to go to school in area as they may want to find a job there during school or after graduation.

Providence has invested over $3 billion in its infrastructure in the last twenty years to help transform its business identity from a manufacturing hub to a city that draws in diverse industries. The investment seems to have paid off. Many new businesses have moved to the area including medical technology, biotech, financial services, software, communications, and electronics firms.

With a 2004 average unemployment rate of 5.2%, Providence ranked slightly below the national average. Linda Ernst, Assistant Director of Career Services for Providence College, notes that "in general, the job outlook in Providence is about average."

Of course, job seekers hope for outstanding prospects, but an average job outlook is not particularly cause for concern. It just means students should keep their job search in mind and do everything they can to make themselves attractive to employers.

Ernst points out that choosing a school with many opportunities and making good course choices while in school can help students prepare for their job search. "Choose a school that has not only majors in which you may be interested but also many opportunities for you to develop skills through extracurricular activities and internships," advices Ernst. "Choose a major based on your abilities and interests, but also choose courses that help to make you well rounded. For example, if you choose a liberal arts major, then also select a few business courses," adds Ernst.

Students at most schools also have access to career services assistance. Unfortunately, many students don't know how their school's career services office can help. Ernst recommends that students seek out their school's career service office and take advantage of all it has to offer. "In addition to career counseling and help with resumes, interviewing, and job search strategies, most career service offices also offer online resources, workshops, career presentations, job fairs, networking events, internship opportunities, on-campus recruiting, and job postings," notes Ernst.

By making good choices during school and taking advantage of career service assistance, students seeking employment in the Providence area should have a great chance of finding a fabulous job.


An excellent quality of life and diverse education choices make Providence a popular choice for prospective students.

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