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    Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in Rhode Island

    Despite its small size, Rhode Island is home to many excellent colleges and universities, some of which offer accredited nursing degrees. Anyone who plans on becoming a registered nurse (RN) first needs to complete either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).

    While an ADN takes just two years and prepares students to pass the NCLEX-RN exam and become RNs, earning a four-year BSN could be worth your while. Not only do BSN-holders earn more than ADN holders, but some healthcare facilities are beginning to only hire BSN-holding RNs

    Regardless of which you choose, completing a program in Rhode Island prepares you to become an RN in the Ocean State.

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    Methodology

    This is a panel-reviewed selection based on a number of factors including,

    • Reputation
    • NCLEX pass rate
    • Tuition
    • Acceptance rate, when available
    • Only ACEN or CCNE accredited schools are eligible 

    Nurse Panel

    Our selection panel includes 4 Registered Nurses with over 55 years of combined nursing experience and 7 nursing degrees.

    • Tracy Everhart, MSN, RN, CNS
    • Tyler Faust, MSN, RN
    • Kathleen Gaines, BSN, RN, BA, CBC
    • Leah Helmbrecht, BSN, RN

    Because nursing careers take different forms, the top 10 Rhode Island nursing schools are ranked in no particular order. Note that because Rhode Island does not have 10 accredited nursing programs, some ranked schools offer online-only degrees. 

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    Top 10 Nursing Schools in Rhode Island

    1. University of Rhode Island 

    Annual In-State Tuition: $15,004 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition:  $32,578 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 89.31%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    Often ranked among the top research institutions in the region, the University of Rhode Island is home to nearly 18,000 students from across the world. Roughly half of URI's students come from Rhode Island and take advantage of in-state tuition. Students interested in nursing have several options. First, there's the traditional BSN, the flagship program for undergraduates. This four-year program has students study in Kingston and complete clinicals in the area. Current RNs without a BSN can also choose the RN-BSN, available on-campus and online. Finally, BSN holders looking for a graduate degree can complete a master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP) at the Providence campus. 

    2. Salve Regina University

    Annual Tuition: $42,920 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 87.14%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    Salve Regina University is known for its value and outcomes. According to the university, the recent graduating class saw 98% of graduates find a job or enroll in graduate school within six months of completing their bachelor's degree. That's good news for students completing Salve's BSN program. While NCLEX pass rates aren't the highest, students do gain valuable experience through clinicals and service-learning, including a chance to study abroad in Ireland. Other options include an online RN-BSN and multiple graduate programs. 

    3. Rhode Island College

    Annual In-State Tuition: $10,260 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $24,753 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 97.69%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: Yes

    Bridge: No

    Founded in 1854, Rhode Island College is the oldest institution of higher education in the state. Today, the college teaches 9,000 students at its campus in the Mount Pleasant region of Providence. The main undergraduate nursing program, the traditional BSN, has students apply during their freshman year at RIC. The program takes four years to complete. Current RNs can enroll in the RN-BSN, and prospective nurses who already have a bachelor's degree can enroll in the accelerated second degree BSN. Graduate students can choose an MSN, a DNP, or a certificate in either nursing care management or healthcare quality and patient safety. 

    4. Community College of Rhode Island

    Annual In-State Tuition: $4,700 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $12,544 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 89.2%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: No

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: Yes

    Founded in 1964 with just 325 students, the Community College of Rhode Island now teaches 18,000 students -- an incredible rate of growth in such a short time. As a community college, CCRI does not offer four-year degrees, so students cannot enroll in a BSN. However, CCRI does have an accredited ADN. In addition to a strong NCLEX pass rate, 97.5% of 2018 graduates found a position as an RN. Current licensed practical nurses (LPNs) can use the LPN-RN program to take a step forward in their nursing careers. Any graduates interested in a BSN can always enroll in an online RN-BSN program elsewhere. 

    5. New England Institute of Technology

    Annual Tuition: $30,000 | NCLEX Pass Rate: N/A

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    The New England Institute of Technology is a regional leader in teaching employable skills. Prospective nurses who want to earn a BSN through NEIT should keep an open mind since the pathway is not traditional. First, students must complete the ADN, a six-term program that can be completed in as little as 18 months. NEIT doesn't disclose NCLEX pass rates for the program, though it uses advanced statistics to show that students secure employment at a high rate. Next, students can enroll in NEIT's online RN-BSN. While the program is far from conventional, students can always work as an RN after just 18 months, then earn their BSN while continuing to gain nursing experience. 

    6. Aspen University

    Annual Tuition: $10,550 | NCLEX Pass Rate: N/A

    Traditional: No

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    Rhode Island is a small state, so there simply aren't enough in-state schools that offer nursing degrees. Fortunately, schools like Aspen University offer online RN-BSN degrees to nurses across the nation. This fast program takes just 12 months to complete and uses eight-week courses. Aspen anticipates that some students will continue working as an RN while completing the program, so students can take courses whenever they have time. Other nursing options include various MSN specializations, RN-MSN degrees, and a DNP. While Aspen does have a traditional BSN program, it isn't available in Rhode Island. 

    7. Grand Canyon University

    Annual Tuition: $16,500 | NCLEX Pass Rate: N/A

    Traditional: No

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    Based primarily out of Phoenix, Arizona, Grand Canyon University is a private, Christian school that's best known for its online programs. While students in Arizona can enroll in the on-campus traditional BSN, nurses in Rhode Island complete the online RN-BSN. After completing a BSN, Rhode Island RNs can then choose from the various graduate nursing options, including an MSN in nursing education. GCU also has several doctoral options and graduate certificates for nurses who want to advance their careers even further. 

    8. Western Governors University

    Annual Tuition: $6,450 | NCLEX Pass Rate: N/A

    Traditional: No

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    Best known for its online programs, Western Governors University has locations across the nation. While WGU doesn't have a location in Rhode Island, nurses can still enroll in its online degrees. The most popular option is the online RN-BSN, a low-cost program that most students complete in two years. To encourage students, WGU charges a lower tuition rate the faster you complete the program, so it's in your best interest to work fast! RNs can also skip their BSN entirely and enroll in an online RN-MSN program, such as the RN-MSN in nursing education

    9. Chamberlain University

    Annual Tuition: $21,230 (based on per-credit tuition rate) | NCLEX Pass Rate: N/A

    Traditional: No

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    Created to empower current healthcare professionals, Chamberlain University offers a variety of online degrees that lead to higher-paying positions. Current RNs would be most interested in either the online RN-BSN or the online RN-MSN. Both options are quick ways to advance your career -- for example, the RN-BSN takes just one year to complete. Of course, any applicants must first become RNs. Chamberlain does offer an accelerated three-year BSN, though Rhode Island students can't take advantage of this unique program. 

    10. Capella University

    RN-BSN Program Cost: $9,600 | NCLEX Pass Rate: N/A

    Traditional: No

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    While Capella University does have a campus, about 30,000 of its 38,500 students choose to study online. Students looking for an online nursing degree have three main options: bachelor's, master's, and doctoral. As online programs, any applicants must have at least an RN license. However, current RNs can take advantage of Capella's flexible degrees. The RN-BSN takes as little as nine months to complete, and students can begin MSN courses while wrapping up their RN-BSN. 

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    4 Key Factors That Affect Nursing School Tuition

    Keep in mind that colleges and universities reserve the right to change tuition rates at any time. The yearly tuition rates listed here will vary for each student depending on various factors including,

    • Transfer credits
    • Completed competency exams
    • Amount of credits taken per year
    • Financial aid awards

    Check with the specific school for current tuition rates.

    Rhode Island Nurse Salary and Job Outlook

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

    • Rhode Island registered nurses earn a mean annual wage of $78,420.
    • Rhode Island employs 26.21 nurses per 1,000 workers, the fifth-highest rate in the nation. 

    Rhode Island's mean annual wage of $78,420 edges out the U.S. mean annual wage of $75,510. This salary also beats nearby New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. However, Rhode Island's pay is lower than nearby Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. 

    What's great about Rhode Island is that it doesn't sacrifice employment for higher nursing wages. While states like New York and Connecticut employ fewer nurses per capita than the national average, Rhode Island is among the highest per capita employers for registered nurses. 

    While Rhode Island doesn't have the largest selection of nursing schools, registered nurses in RI get to enjoy the best of both worlds. 

    Next Steps:

    Spend some time looking at potential Rhode Island schools to decide where you would be interested in learning. Once you've selected multiple schools, get in touch with different departments to learn more about the application and admissions process. 

    Contact each school’s admissions office. The first step to becoming a nurse is getting into a college. Contact every school's admissions office to learn more about the admissions process. They might include tips on how to boost your application's quality!

    Check to see if you meet the nursing school requirements. Getting into a college is the first step. Usually, nursing schools have a separate admissions process that's even tougher than the college's admissions process. Find out if you're on track to meet the nursing school requirements. 

    Submit your application(s). Once you've figured out everything you need to get into the college and nursing program, the final step is to gather your materials and apply! Things you'll likely need to submit include:

    • High school transcript (GPA)
    • ACT and/or SAT scores
    • College entrance essay(s)
    • Letter(s) of recommendation

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    Important considerations when comparing schools: 

    After getting accepted to multiple schools, picking where you want to attend is a tough decision. While big factors such as cost, distance from home, and school reputation should be considered, you might be overlooking other details. Here are some things to consider when comparing schools:

    • Total program cost, including in-state or out-of-state tuition and fees
    • Private vs. Public 
    • Distance from home
    • Financial aid, scholarships, and grants offered
    • Cost of living on-campus or in the area
    • School and nursing program acceptance rate
    • Commute to school/hospital for clinicals
    • Program length
    • Program type (on-campus, online, hybrid)
    • Program outcomes (NCLEX pass rate and job placement)
    • Accreditation (regional and programmatic)

    Why you should care about the nursing program’s accreditation  

    Accrediting bodies are in charge of evaluating academic quality. Make sure that any college or university you apply to in Rhode Island is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. In addition, only apply to nursing programs that have programmatic accreditation. 

    The two nursing accreditation organizations to look for are

    If you earn a degree from an unaccredited school, you may have trouble securing federal financial aid and finding work as a nurse after graduation. 

    Getting a License in Rhode Island

    Fortunately for aspiring nurses, Rhode Island has a relatively simple path to becoming a nurse. All requirements are available online, and new nurses will apply for licensure by examination. Here are the steps to earning an RN license in Rhode Island.

    • Study at an accredited and approved nursing school in Rhode Island
    • Submit proof of Rhode Island Residency
    • Take and pass the NCLEX-RN
    • Pass a background check with fingerprints
    • Apply through the State of Rhode Island Department of Health.

    Conclusion 

    Rhode Island may not have the most nursing programs to choose from, but students who graduate and become RNs enjoy above-average wages and one of the highest employment rates for nurses in the nation. The colleges that do offer nursing programs are excellent, so students do still have some options. After earning an ADN or BSN, nurses submit their information, pass the NCLEX, and earn a license to work in Rhode Island as a registered nurse!

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    References:

    BLS

    State of Rhode Island Department of Health

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