Public Higher Ed Rhode Island

In 2016, Governor Raimondo and education leaders revealed Rhode Island's ambitious attainment goal: 70% of working-age Rhode Islanders will hold a postsecondary degree or credential by 2025.

Rhode Island public higher education at a glance.

Attainment 43% of Rhode Islanders hold a degree or credential
New Entries 11.8K new degree-seeking undergrads annually
Enrollment 77% of all students enroll from one academic year to the next
Completion 7,036 Degrees and certificates awarded in 2018

What is the highest educational attainment for RI’s population over 25?

Postsecondary attainment measures the percentage of the working-age population (25-64) with a postsecondary degree or credential. At the individual level, higher educational attainment has been linked with higher income, deeper community engagement, and higher overall quality of life. At the state level, higher educational attainment has the potential to attract investment from business and industry and spur innovation and overall economic prosperity.

In 2016, Governor Raimondo set the postsecondary attainment goal that 70 percent of working-age Rhode Islanders will hold a postsecondary degree or credential of value by 2025. Rhode Island’s current attainment level of 47.5% is on par with the national average, but well below the state’s attainment goal of 70% by 2025.

Importantly, Rhode Island’s attainment level masks significant disparities by race/ethnicity, and reaching the attainment goal must go hand-in-hand with eliminating equity gaps.

How many new students enroll at Rhode Island’s public higher education institutions?

Currently, around 10,000 new students enroll in an undergraduate degree-seeking program at the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, or the Community College of Rhode Island, the three public institutions of higher education in Rhode Island, every year.

In order to reach our postsecondary attainment goal, we must attract significantly more people into public higher education. An increase in new entries over the current 10,000 per year will be the earliest indicator of progress towards our attainment goal.

How many adults continue enrollment at RI’s public postsecondary institutions each year?

Continuing enrollment represents the number of individuals in a given year who were previously enrolled in one of Rhode Island’s public postsecondary institutions. Factoring out graduates and transfers, around 77% of Rhode Island’s public higher education students remain enrolled from one year to the next, and reducing the number of stop-outs and drop-outs will have significant cumulative impact on improving completions and attainment. Many factors contribute to a student's ability to continue to enroll through each academic term, including employment and dependent care commitments, financial obligations, and academic momentum.


How many students complete a postsecondary degree or credential program in a RI public higher education institution each academic year?

Increasing the total number of completions is the best indicator for how Rhode Island is tracking toward reaching the 70% attainment goal. Our public institutions of higher education graduate approximately 5,500 students per year, of which nearly 75% are resident students more likely to stay in Rhode Island and contribute to our state’s economic growth.

Reaching the 70% attainment goal will require us to support 90,000 additional Rhode Islanders in completing degrees or credentials, beyond the current levels of degree production. Divided evenly over five years, this amounts to nearly 18,000 additional degrees and credentials per year.  It is important to acknowledge that such dramatic growth will not only require additional completion data across all of Rhode Island’s institutions, but it will also require us to serve dramatically more students.