Skip to main content
Scenes from the College of Arts and Sciences

Our Brief History

Founded in 1892

Think Big. It's what we do every day at URI -- and it's part of our DNA.

In fact, the University of Rhode Island is what it is today because a few people acted on a very big idea. In 1888, a handful of South Kingstown residents, the South Kingstown Town Council, and the State of Rhode Island made a collective donation of $5,000 to purchase the 140-acre Oliver Watson Farm and establish a state agricultural school and experiment station. On May 19, 1892 our name was changed from the "State Agricultural School" to the "Rhode Island College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts." Our first class of 17 students graduated in 1894.

Growing Out

Even more than a century ago, our innovative ideas, adaptive intelligence, and breakthrough research were readily apparent. We've long since outgrown our original charge to teach agriculture, military tactics, mechanical arts, and classical studies, and are recognized as a preeminent research University tackling global issues. Those first 140 acres have grown into a 1,200-acre Kingston campus plus the Feinstein Providence Campus, Narragansett Bay Campus, and W. Alton Jones Campus, each with its own distinct mission.

More Than Bricks

In the last 20 years, the University has invested more than $1 billion into building, rebuilding, or renovating more than 50 campus buildings designed to increase cutting-edge resources available to students and faculty alike. In 2012, we opened our state-of-the-art pharmacy building and our most energy-efficient residence hall. And in 2013, we'll break ground for our Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences. Not bound by bricks and mortar, we've also taken steps toward a 24/7 learning environment, creating an online certificate program, increasing online courses, and doubling our hybrid courses.

Academically Speaking

More than 100 undergraduate and 80 graduate degree programs inspire our students and spark their creativity. To respond to the world's changing needs, we've created new degree programs, like our interdisciplinary health studies major and programs such as green business, underwater archaeology, Chinese, textile marketing, neurosciences, and forensic chemistry; and we blend disciplines such as languages with textiles and pharmaceuticals, and underwater archaeology with engineering. Our pharmaceutical engineering program was one of the nation's first, and the dual-degree international engineering program is a national model. We're a premier center for research in behavioral psychology, one of the world's foremost marine research institutions, and a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence for explosives research.

In Touch

URI faculty are sought by news media, governments, and other organizations worldwide for their expertise in such areas as natural disasters, oil spill clean-ups, terrorism, human trafficking, wind power, and coastal resource management. Our students work with faculty on exciting and critical endeavors such as new artificial limb designs, monitoring ocean pollutants, improving cybersecurity, protecting Arctic marine mammals, boosting vaccination rates, and developing fast, secure computer storage capabilities. And continuing our tradition of excellence, our students have received some of the most prestigious scholarships in the nation, including the Fulbright, Truman, Whitaker, Hollings and Boren.

Now in 2015

Our enrollment has grown from 17 in 1892 to 16,637 undergraduate and graduate students. More than 116,000 alumni live and work throughout the U.S., in three U.S. territories, and in 80 countries. On May 16 and 17, 2015, our eleventh president, David M. Dooley, will proudly confer about 4,000 undergraduate and graduate degrees upon our newest alumni, who will then put their big ideas to work and transform the world.

Fast Facts 2014

Student Body
Total Enrollment: 16,637

  • In-state: 9,794 (59%)
  • Out-of-state: 6,843 (41%)

Undergraduate: 13,909

  • In-state: 8,119 (58%)
  • Out-of-state: 5,790 (42%)

Graduate: 2,002

  • In-state: 1,103 (55%)
  • Out-of-state: 899 (45%)

Non-Degree Seeking: 726

All Students

  • Women: 55%
  • Men: 45%
  • Students of color: 18%


  • Student/Faculty Ratio: 16/1
  • Faculty: 85% with doctoral or terminal degrees

Undergraduate Tuition/Fees

  • RI Residents: $12,450
  • Out-of-State: $28,016
  • Avg. Room & Board: $11,586

Graduate Tuition/Fees

  • RI Residents: $12,920
  • Out-of-State: $24,994


Maps & Directions

Latest News

Think Big. We Do.