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The University of Rhode Island is the state’s public research university, and its leading provider of four-year undergraduate and graduate education. Both as a significant enterprise in its own right and through its mission of education, research, outreach and community engagement, URI is a major contributor to the ongoing development of Rhode Island’s economy.

The University traces its origins to 1888, when the 140-acre Oliver Watson Farm was purchased as the site for a new state-chartered agricultural school and agricultural experiment station. (The restored farmhouse still stands on what is now the University’s Kingston Campus.) With additional funding from the federal government under the Second Morrill Land-Grant Act, the school became the Rhode Island College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (RICA&M) in 1892, and graduated its first class of 17 students in 1894.

To reflect the institution’s expanding programs, RICA&M was renamed Rhode Island State College in 1909 – a year that also saw the establishment of the state’s first marine laboratory. With continued expansion, RICA&M was renamed the University of Rhode Island in 1951. Today, URI is a “learner-centered” research university, with undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs offered through nine colleges and schools. (Table 1)

University of Rhode Island Colleges and Schools and their location (Table 1)

College Location
College of Arts and Sciences Kingston
College of Business Administration Kingston
College of Engineering Kingston
College of the Environment and Life Sciences Kingston
Graduate School of Oceanography Narragansett
College of Human Science and Services Kingston
College of Nursing Kingston
College of Pharmacy Kingston
Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Continuing Education Providence

As shown in Figure 1, the University has four campuses.

Map of the University of Rhode Island’s campus locations (Figure 1)

Map of the University of Rhode Island’s campus locations, including Feinstein Providence Campus in Providence, W Alton Jones Campus in west central Rhode Island, Narragansett Bay Campus in the south east of the state, and Kingston Campus in the south central area

  • The Kingston Campus, located in the village of Kingston, is URI’s main campus.
  • Located in downtown Providence, the Feinstein Providence Campus is home to the Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Continuing Education (founded in 1942) and several other research and educational centers.
  • The Narragansett Bay Campus, established in 1936, is home to the Graduate School of Oceanography, as well as several engineering labs and marine sciences research centers.
  • The W. Alton Jones Campus, established in 1964, is located in West Greenwich. It features 2,300 acres of woods, fields, streams and ponds and serves as a natural laboratory for environmental research and education.

Purpose and organization of the report

As noted above, the University of Rhode Island has been throughout its history and is today a major contributor to the ongoing development of the state’s economy. To better gauge the scale and significance of that contribution, this report assesses and, where possible, quantifies URI’s impact on Rhode Island’s economy. The report was prepared by Appleseed, a New York City-based consulting firm that has had extensive experience working with universities and colleges in the U.S.

Part One of the report assesses the impact of the University as an enterprise – a major employer, a purchaser of goods and services and a sponsor of construction projects; and analyzes the impact of spending in Rhode Island by URI students and visitors to the University.

Part Two of the report discusses the University’s role in the development of Rhode Island’s human capital. Part Three examines the impact of University research on the state’s economy; and Part Four focuses on the commercialization of University research and the University’s contribution to the development of new businesses in Rhode Island.

Part Five highlights some of the ways in which the University is engaged in meeting the needs of Rhode Island communities. Part Six concludes the report with a brief discussion of why the University’s contribution to the state’s economy could be even more significant in the future than it is today.


This report could not have been completed without the active support and assistance of many people at the University of Rhode Island. We would especially like to thank Meredith Drozd, Mark Noll, Michael Smith, Peter Alfonso, Ray Wright, Mark Higgins, James Petell, Rachel Sholly, Kim Washor, John McCray, Tom Mitchell, Michele Nota, Katherine Flynn, Vern Wyman, Paul DePace, Betty Gil, Jayne Pelletier, and Donna Buckley.

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Copyright © 2017 University of Rhode Island.

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