The Optimal Choice for College: Go Public, or Go Online

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Optimal releases their list of 111 Optimal Choice colleges that feature high alumni salaries and low tuition rates.

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Optimal researched the salary and tuition information of over 1,700 colleges that offer bachelor's degrees to find the schools that offer strong alumni outcomes without the high price tag.

Choosing the optimal college has long been a difficult process that can take months of stressful research. Many students pore over college rankings that highlight elite, expensive schools. However, for the majority, the best path is not the most costly or prestigious. Rather, the better determinant of an optimal choice lies in two factors: the cost of the school, and whether one can make a good living after graduation. To help identify colleges that fit that criteria, higher education data research company Optimal is introducing Optimal Choice -- a list of 111 colleges that focus on what students care about: affordability and salary outcomes.

"Our Optimal Choice list provides affordable and accessible college choices for most students rather than focusing on elite schools that accept only a few," said CEO of Optimal, Sung Rhee. "In other words, this list is the anti-U.S.News rankings list."

Optimal researched the salary and tuition information of over 1,700 colleges that offer bachelor's degrees to find the schools that offer strong alumni outcomes without the high price tag. Student outcomes were measured using Salary Score, a proprietary metric that ranks the salaries of first-year graduates from each school based on their major. Affordability was measured using in-state tuition rates, as most students attend college in their state of residence. To be included as an Optimal Choice college, colleges must have a Salary Score in the 60th percentile or higher and a tuition rate below average.

"Looking at the Optimal Choice list, we found that the overwhelming majority of schools with affordable tuition and high alumni Salary Scores are either public or online. Over 85% of the colleges on the list are public. Of the private schools that made the list, 75% of those are primarily online," said Rhee.

The college with the highest Salary Score on the list, Thomas Edison State University (TESU), is both public and primarily online. TESU topped the list for salary with a score of 94.2 and a low tuition rate under $8,000. The most affordable college on the list is Utah Valley University, costing $5,820 annually with a Salary Score in the top third at 67.4.

For those interested in attending college online, Optimal is also releasing the Optimal Choice Online list, which includes colleges that have an online enrollment of 50% or higher. Each of the 27 schools on the list has a Salary Score in the top 60th percentile, and a manually-researched below-average tuition rate.

The Optimal Choice lists offer students a framework to find a variety of colleges with the best return on investment - affordable tuition and strong salary outcomes - from which they can then dig deeper based on their individual preferences. Optimal’s sorting and filtering options also allow students to individualize the list based on their specific location, tuition, and salary desires.

About Optimal™
Optimal helps prospective students make informed, data-driven decisions to improve their higher education experience and their post-graduate careers. The company provides over 85,000 in-depth student reviews, as well as college and bootcamp rankings for every major through its three major products, GradReports, OnlineU, and SwitchUp. Optimal’s tools and services provide accessible and transparent data regarding post-graduate outcomes that give students educational paths that lead them to success, without burdening them with insurmountable debt.

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Nicole Hopler
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