Yet another ranking: Gauging ROI of online degrees

New service encourages prospective college to make ROI-based investment decisions
By: | December 14, 2020
Online U, a new higher ed ranking, evaluates online college degree programs based on alumni salaries and debt as reported to the government. (GettyImages/PeopleImages)Online U, a new higher ed ranking, evaluates online college degree programs based on alumni salaries and debt as reported to the government. (GettyImages/PeopleImages)

A new higher ed ranking tailored uniquely to the COVID era and its aftermath attempts to measure the return on investment of each college’s online degree programs.

Higher ed data research company Optimal has launched OnlineU, which has calculated a 10-year ROI score to highlight the college and university online degrees that produce the best financial outcomes for graduates.

The ranking evaluates colleges based on alumni salaries and debt as reported to the government.

To disrupt the $1.6 trillion owed in college loans, prospective college students need to make ROI-based investment decisions rather than seeking the emotionally-driven, rite-of-passage experience, Optimal founder and CEO Sung Rhee says.


More from UBParents, students leaning to colleges close to home, study shows


“The pandemic has significantly accelerated the growth of online learning and delivered us into a territory where there is not a lot of qualitative or quantitative information yet,” Rhee says. “OnlineU is looking to fill this space … so students are able to vet the value and outcome of their choices rather than playing the guessing game.”

OnlineU’s rankings also include online-specific annual tuition rate for each school.

“As student debt continues to rise exponentially and finances are strained as a result of COVID-19, many people are asking themselves ‘is an education worth it right now?’,” Rhee said. “By showing the salary and debt that can be expected 10 years after graduation, we can help prospective students answer that question.”

Here’s a look at the top 10, along with annual tuition and their OnlineU ROI score:

  1. University of Virginia: $14,640, 98.9%
  2. Northeastern University: $16,230, 97.6%
  3. Excelsior College: $15,300, 96.9%
  4. Capella University: $9,600, 94.8%
  5. SUNY Empire State College: $10,943, 94.7%
  6. University of Alaska Anchorage: $25,440, 94.3%
  7. Roger Williams University: $12,990, 92.9%
  8. Thomas Edison State University: $9,278, 92.1%
  9. Rider University: $45,120, 89.9%
  10. Colorado State University Global: $10,500, 89%

The rankings also track online graduate degrees, and the most popular undergraduate online majors, which include art and design, business, education, engineering, nursing and psychology.


More from UBWhy instructors want to stick with video beyond COVID