Roger Williams University’s Advertising Campaign Comes Under Fire for Questionable Claims

Saturday, January 13, 2018


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Roger Williams advertising claims come under fire

Slick marketing or maybe a little false advertising?

A new radio advertising campaign from Roger Williams University running in the Providence media market, claims in part: “Did you know the tuition at the School of Continuing Studies at Roger Williams University is just as affordable as a community college?”

In Rhode Island, where the ad is running on iHeart media stations, the Community College of Rhode Island’s tuition is now free for almost all students.

A GoLocal reader heard the commercial and then checked the Roger Williams website thinking that Rhode Island residents could take classes for free at Roger Williams.

But, Roger Williams School of Continuing Education classes start at $999 for a three-credit class and increase up to over $2,000 for a three-credit graduate class. In addition, classes at the Bristol campus are even more costly.

Roger Williams defended the claims saying that the radio spots are also running in other markets and when they run in Rhode Island they can be heard in Massachusetts.

“In response to your inquiry, the radio ad does not mention the Community College of Rhode Island, which now offers free tuition to some of its students who meet certain criteria,” said Ed Fitzpatrick, spokesperson for Roger Williams.

“RWU recruits from a wide area that includes many community colleges, and the ad is running on a variety of traditional radio and digital platforms that reach beyond Rhode Island. The School of Continuing Studies has a much different tuition structure than RWU’s Bristol campus, it offers discounts, and with federal funding many students attend the School of Continuing Studies for free,” said Fitzpatrick.

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In RI, CCRI is free for almost all students with a 2.5 GPA

Massachusetts Community Colleges Are Cheaper Than Roger Williams

Roger Williams fees are significantly higher than any community college in the immediate region, according to a review by GoLocal.

“At Roger Williams University, our tuition prices do not change for wherever you live in the world,” claims Roger Williams on its website.  Prices at Roger Williams School of Continuing Studies are listed as:

Roger Williams Tuition costs

Evening Classroom Course (3 credits)  $999
Directed Seminar (3 credits)  $1,299
Online Course (3 credits)  $1,299
Graduate Certificate Course (3 credits)  $1719

Despite the Roger Williams radio spot's claim, the tuition at Bristol Community College just over the border in Massachusetts is lower than the cost at Roger Williams’ School of Continuing Studies. Bristol Community college credits are about half the price of the Roger Williams’ price and in some cases is less than 40 percent of the cost.

According to Bristol Community College's website, it "receives some of its funding from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and is subsidized by state tax revenues. This means that students pay only a portion of the total cost of a BCC education. And, for some Rhode Island residents, they can attend Bristol Community for the price of Massachusetts residents."

A Roger Williams spokesman did not refute the GoLocal's analysis in follow up questions. 

Bristol Community College Tuition and College Fees per credit hour

Massachusetts and nearby Rhode Island residents

Tuition    $24/credit

College Fee    $170/credit

Total    $194/credit

Many nearby eastern Rhode Island residents pay in-state tuition and fee rates under the New England Regional Student Program.  See Admissions for details.

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BCC has campuses in Attleboro, Fall River and New Bedford

The New England Regional Student Program allows out-of-state students from New England to enroll in BCC programs at in-state tuition if the public colleges and universities in the student’s home state do not offer the program. In addition, the College accepts students for day classes from nearby eastern Rhode Island (Adamsville, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Portsmouth, Tiverton, and Warren, RI) at in-state tuition rates. The Admissions office and the NERSP website at have additional information.

"As a private university, our programs are as affordable as community colleges when you look at retention, success and total cost to degree completion. The discounted rate available at the School of Continuing Studies is the result of the many partnerships and memoranda of understanding that the school has developed over the years with communities such as Pawtucket and Central Falls," said Fitzpatrick. 


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