Home Online Education Access and Affordability A First Try at ROI: Ranking 4,500 Colleges
A First Try at ROI: Ranking 4,500 Colleges

A First Try at ROI: Ranking 4,500 Colleges

College ROI Boston

Anthony Carnevale, Ban Cheah, and Martin Van Der Werf of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce issued a report ranking the ROI of all 4,500 colleges and universities listed in the College Scorecard.

Included among the researchers’ notable findings:

  • Community college and many certificate programs have the highest ROI in the short term (10 years).
  • Colleges that primarily award bachelor’s degrees have the highest ROI in the long term (40 years).
  • Public colleges have higher ROI than private colleges in the short term.
  • Degrees from private nonprofit colleges generally have a higher ROI in the long term than public universities.

Of the 4,500+ colleges and universities assessed, I’m proud that APUS ranks #93 overall for 40-year NPV (net present value) and 95th overall, or in the top two percent nationally and first among institutions from West Virginia. Our founding mission has been to provide a quality and affordable online education and this report confirms that keeping tuition low to help reduce student debt truly pays off for our students.

Given that this is the first time that the Center has tried to calculate an ROI for graduates of specific colleges, I am certain some will critique the methodologies employed as well as some of the data collected by the College Scorecard. Colleges and universities are not monoliths. For the most part, they have distinctive and diverse populations. In APUS’s case, we’re totally online, have mostly part-time, adult students serving in the U.S. military, and many of our students graduate with no debt because their employer pays for it and our tuition is comparable with public, in-state tuition. A student who borrows 100% of the cost of college will incur more debt than our median. At the same time, similar analyses can likely be conducted for each of the colleges assessed. It will be interesting to read the critiques and see if the researchers continue the report using the same methodology or change it based on comments from the field.



Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In July 2016, he retired as APUS president and continued as CEO of APEI. In September 2017, he was reappointed APUS president after the resignation of Dr. Karan Powell. In September 2019, Angela Selden was named CEO of APEI, succeeding Dr. Boston who will remain APUS president until his planned retirement in June 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. During his tenure, APUS grew to over 100,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 90,000 alumni. In addition to his service as a board member of APUS and APEI, Dr. Boston is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, a board member of the Presidents’ Forum, and a board member of Hondros College of Nursing and Fidelis, Inc. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. Dr. Boston lives in Owings Mills, MD with his wife Sharon and their two daughters.


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