The best online university programs based on their return on investment



As more students turn to online education during the pandemic, they are increasingly interested in learning more about the costs and benefits of online degree programs. Now, Optimal (formerly SR Education Group and the host of renamed its Online Schools Guide as a new source of such information.

The new product is called OnlineU, and this month it came out Ranking of the best colleges in 2021 for return on investment. Rankings are based on the major specific median salary and the average number of debts collected from the US Department of Education College Dashboard.

“The pandemic has considerably accelerated the growth of online learning and brought us to a territory where there is not yet a lot of qualitative or quantitative information”, said Optimal Founder and CEO Sung Rhee. “OnlineU seeks to fill that space with our data-driven articles and outcome-based rankings focused specifically on ROI, so students can check the value and outcome of their choices rather than playing guesswork. “

To determine mid-career return on investment (ROI), schools were ranked based on graduate salaries and debt payments 10 years after graduation, taking into account standard salary growth and interest on debt payments. Each school was assigned a percentile “ROI score” which shows how the salary and debt of alumni from that school’s online programs compare to similar programs.

A statistical score was calculated to compare the 10-year ROI of each degree program with the 10-year average ROI for all other programs in the same field. Scores for programs offered online at each school were averaged and schools were ranked from highest to lowest on this average score. To be considered, schools had to have the data needed for a minimum number of online programs at associate, bachelor’s and master’s level.

The 20 best online universities based on bachelor’s degrees include public, private not-for-profit, and for-profit institutions. They include traditional campus-based institutions as well as those that are exclusively online:

  • University of Virginia
  • Northeastern University
  • Excelsior College
  • Capella University
  • SUNY Empire State College
  • University of Alaska, Anchorage
  • Roger Williams University
  • Thomas Edison State University
  • Rider University
  • Colorado State University in the world
  • Drexel University
  • University of Maryland Global Campus
  • Concordia University, Saint-Paul
  • Saint Joseph University
  • Brandman University
  • Bellevue University
  • Miami University
  • Western Governors University
  • American public university system
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in the world

The top ten online universities based on master’s degrees are all well-established non-profit public or private schools.

  • Fordham University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • Northwestern University

  • Columbia University, New York
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • California State University, Northridge
  • George Mason University
  • University of Minnesota
  • St. John’s University
  • University of Maryland

In addition to these rankings, the site also ranks individual study programs in a number of areas.

  • So, for example, if you are planning to earn a Bachelor of Arts and Design, the University of Montana ranks # 1 for ROI, with an annual tuition fee of $ 21,600 and a median salary of $ 21,600. mid-career $ 80,300. It is followed by the University of Iowa (annual tuition fee: $ 8,073; mid-career salary: $ 61,914) and the University of Denver (annual tuition fee: $ 30,060; mid-career salary -career: $ 69,729).
  • For a student seeking a Masters in Consulting, the University of West Virginia ranked # 1 in ROI with an annual tuition fee of $ 16,960 and a mid-year median salary of 109. $ 600. It was followed by Rutgers University (tuition: $ 11,040 and median mid-career salary: $ 72,600) and Pepperdine University (tuition: $ 49,135 and mid-career salary of 85 $ 000).

Each college ranking system is limited by its methodology, and consumers should understand that the interpretation of the results should be tempered by what data is collected and how. In the case of these online degree rankings, the salaries reported are specific to a limited period and they are extrapolated from past figures. Debt figures only cover federal loans, not other sources. Additionally, universities with a small number of online programs and programs with a small number of graduates are not included.

Finally, the value of college should not be measured only in dollars and cents. Many students don’t go to college just as a financial investment, a plan to make a profit. They want to learn how to lead an informed and engaged life combined with the opportunity to be paid well as they do. They want to meet new ideas from people different from them. And they want to develop relationships that give their life lasting meaning. No ranking system fully captures all of these motivations.

Nonetheless, understanding future financial results is of interest to prospective students and their families as they consider whether a college education is worth it. The 2021 Best Colleges For ROI Rankings offers useful information about this score.


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