Best Value Colleges - Optimal Choice

By the GradReports team | Updated 11/2/2021

Our Optimal Choice list highlights the best value colleges for students that offer high salaries and low tuition. We researched salary and tuition information for over 1,782 colleges to find the schools that produce alumni who earn high salaries without the high price tag. We determine alumni earnings based on a ranking system that investigates alumni salaries by program, called Salary Score. See our methodology for additional information.

Key Insights

  • Over 85% of Optimal Choice colleges are public schools.
  • Of the private non-profit schools on the Optimal Choice list, over 75% are primarily online.
  • The top-ranked school based on Salary Score is Thomas Edison State University, a primarily online college that costs less than $8,000 a year, just ahead of UC-Berkeley.
Read our full analysis below.

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Optimal Choice Colleges

111 Colleges that Offer High Alumni Salaries and Low Tuition

Thomas Edison State University Trenton (NJ) $7,926 94.20
University of California - Berkeley Berkeley (CA) $14,253 93.80
Capella University Minneapolis (MN) $14,540 90.97
California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo (CA) $9,943 90.16
American Public University System Charles Town (WV) $7,324 89.54
The College of New Jersey Ewing (NJ) $16,923 89.07
Colorado State University Global Greenwood Village (CO) $8,400 88.90
California State University-East Bay Hayward (CA) $7,000 88.36
National University La Jolla (CA) $13,320 87.96
San Jose State University San Jose (CA) $7,852 87.70
Linfield University-Online and Continuing Education McMinnville (OR) $13,365 86.63
Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta (GA) $12,682 86.35
University of Maryland - College Park College Park (MD) $10,779 86.24
University of Massachusetts Global Multiple Locations $12,440 86.04
University of Maryland Global Campus Adelphi (MD) $7,560 85.66
The University of Texas at Austin Austin (TX) $10,824 83.25
University of Minnesota-Crookston Crookston (MN) $12,116 82.95
Western Governors University Salt Lake City (UT) $6,670 82.02
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Ann Arbor (MI) $15,558 81.14
University of Virginia Charlottesville (VA) $17,798 80.95
Oregon Institute of Technology Klamath Falls (OR) $10,485 79.53
Concordia University - Saint Paul Saint Paul (MN) $22,800 79.36
University of the District of Columbia Washington D.C. $6,020 77.52
Bowie State University Bowie (MD) $8,444 77.49
The University of Texas Permian Basin Odessa (TX) $6,666 76.33
Sonoma State University Rohnert Park (CA) $7,880 75.93
University of Massachusetts-Boston Boston (MA) $14,613 75.43
University of Washington - Seattle Seattle (WA) $11,465 75.43
University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign Champaign (IL) $15,122 75.30
San Francisco State University San Francisco (CA) $7,266 75.27
Metropolitan State University Saint Paul (MN) $8,114 75.24
University of Massachusetts - Amherst Amherst (MA) $16,389 75.17
SUNY Empire State College Saratoga Springs (NY) $7,605 74.70
Southern New Hampshire University Online Manchester (NH) $9,600 74.67
University of Wisconsin - Madison Madison (WI) $10,725 74.67
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus Durham (NH) $18,879 74.57
Touro College New York (NY) $20,550 74.38
Texas Tech University Lubbock (TX) $9,300 74.18
University of Delaware Newark (DE) $14,280 74.18
Purdue University - Main Campus West Lafayette (IN) $9,992 73.92
Worcester State University Worcester (MA) $10,161 73.47
Bellevue University Bellevue (NE) $7,851 73.24
George Mason University Fairfax (VA) $12,564 73.20
James Madison University Harrisonburg (VA) $12,206 73.07
Texas A&M University-College Station College Station (TX) $12,153 72.97
Indiana University - Bloomington Bloomington (IN) $10,947 72.94
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Minneapolis (MN) $15,027 72.17
University of Houston-Clear Lake Houston (TX) $7,310 71.77
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg (VA) $13,691 71.53
University of Alaska Anchorage Anchorage (AK) $8,103 71.06
Michigan State University East Lansing (MI) $14,460 70.95
Towson University Towson (MD) $10,198 70.92
Minnesota State University at Mankato Mankato (MN) $8,438 70.85
West Chester University of Pennsylvania West Chester (PA) $10,421 70.85
Longwood University Farmville (VA) $13,520 70.61
Colorado School of Mines Golden (CO) $19,062 70.30
Michigan Technological University Houghton (MI) $15,960 69.78
Granite State College Concord (NH) $7,791 69.39
Miami University-Oxford Oxford (OH) $15,911 69.32
Iowa State University Ames (IA) $9,320 68.79
Arizona State University Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others) $10,698 68.62
University of Massachusetts-Lowell Lowell (MA) $15,648 68.62
University of Colorado Boulder Boulder (CO) $12,500 68.37
University of Connecticut Storrs (CT) $17,226 68.37
University of Michigan - Dearborn Dearborn (MI) $13,304 68.37
Washington State University Pullman (WA) $11,841 68.12
California State University-Sacramento Sacramento (CA) $7,368 68.08
Illinois State University Normal (IL) $14,832 67.47
Utah Valley University Orem (UT) $5,820 67.40
Winona State University Winona (MN) $9,666 67.15
Rutgers University New Brunswick (NJ) $15,407 67.00
Saint Cloud State University St. Cloud (MN) $8,656 66.97
University of Houston-Downtown Houston (TX) $6,788 66.75
Metropolitan State University of Denver Denver (CO) $8,151 66.57
University of Utah Salt Lake City (UT) $8,615 66.57
Pennsylvania State University State College (PA) $18,450 66.49
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice New York (NY) $7,470 66.31
Ramapo College of New Jersey Mahwah (NJ) $14,678 65.91
Wilmington University New Castle (DE) $11,480 65.80
Citadel Military College of South Carolina Charleston (SC) $12,620 65.17
Salem State University Salem (MA) $11,128 64.88
The University of Texas at Arlington Arlington (TX) $11,040 64.84
CUNY York College Jamaica (NY) $7,358 64.62
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse La Crosse (WI) $9,127 64.51
University of Wisconsin-River Falls River Falls (WI) $8,037 64.51
University of California-Santa Barbara Santa Barbara (CA) $14,391 64.17
Park University Parkville (MO) $11,190 64.06
Central Washington University Ellensburg (WA) $8,273 63.98
Kansas State University Manhattan (KS) $10,440 63.87
CUNY Lehman College Bronx (NY) $7,410 63.53
University of Phoenix Nationwide $9,552 63.38
University of Wisconsin-Stout Menomonie (WI) $9,463 63.34
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Eau Claire (WI) $8,840 63.31
University of North Dakota Grand Forks (ND) $9,736 63.27
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Whitewater (WI) $7,695 63.12
California State University-San Marcos San Marcos (CA) $7,717 63.01
Lamar University Beaumont (TX) $8,494 63.01
Franklin University Columbus (OH) $9,577 62.89
University of Nebraska at Omaha Omaha (NE) $7,980 62.82
Minnesota State University-Moorhead Moorhead (MN) $8,954 62.78
University of North Texas Denton (TX) $11,044 62.78
William Paterson University of New Jersey Wayne (NJ) $13,370 62.78
Missouri University of Science and Technology Rolla (MO) $9,936 62.48
Framingham State University Framingham (MA) $11,100 62.44
University of California - Los Angeles Los Angeles (CA) $13,240 62.40
University of Northern Iowa Cedar Falls (IA) $8,938 62.13
Ohio State University-Main Campus Columbus (OH) $11,084 62.10
Auburn University Auburn (AL) $11,492 61.98
University of Missouri Columbia (MO) $10,477 61.94
University of Houston Houston (TX) $9,221 61.87
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