Optimal Choice: Best Colleges for the 99%
By Sung Rhee
Sung is the founder and CEO of Optimal, the parent company of GradReports. Sung has been featured in several publications, including GeekWire and 425 Business Magazine. For a more in-depth look into Sung's background, check out the CEO Perspective he authored.
These days, everyone seems to publish college rankings based on a wide variety of interesting criteria. However, these rankings are usually designed to highlight elite institutions despite being carefully arranged to maintain some semblance of uniqueness. Ultimately, though, most students care about two things when considering their college education: the outcome and affordability.
In keeping with Optimal's mission of using data to help students make better decisions about their careers and education, we are introducing Optimal Choice — a list of 111 U.S. colleges that excel in both student outcomes and affordability. Student outcomes are measured by Salary Score, a proprietary scoring system that ranks the salaries of first-year graduates from each school based on their major. Affordability is measured by schools' annual tuition rates. The list is made up of colleges that rank in Salary Score's top 60th percentile and rank among the lower half of schools in terms of tuition cost.
This list represents the best colleges for all students — not just the elite. Most colleges on the list are large public universities, such as the University of Wisconsin, University of Texas, Michigan State, and CUNY colleges. Some colleges that made the list are primarily online, including the following: Capella University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Western Governors University. A few for-profit colleges also made the list, including American Public University System and the University of Phoenix.
Overall, this list provides affordable and accessible college choices for most students rather than focusing on elite schools that accept only a few. In other words, this list is the anti-U.S. News rankings list.
Some elite public universities are included on this list, such as UCLA, UC Berkeley, Georgia Tech, and the University of Virginia. However, the majority of colleges on this list accept over 50% of applicants, and many even accept 70%. Overall, this list provides affordable and accessible college choices for most students rather than focusing on elite schools that accept only a few. In other words, this list is the anti-U.S. News rankings list.