best in class

University of Houston System snags spots on list of schools with affordability and potential salary

The University of Houston-Clear Lake Campus is among the three UH System schools that give its students more bang for their buck. Photo via UHSystems.org

Three University of Houston campuses earn spots on a new list of the 111 U.S. colleges that excel when it comes to affordability and potential salary.

Showing up on the new Optimal Choice list produced by Optimal, a provider of higher education data, are the University of Houston-Clear Lake, the University of Houston-Downtown, and the main campus of the University of Houston.

Optimal researched salary and tuition information for more than 1,700 colleges that offer bachelor's degrees to find the schools that offer robust salary outcomes without the high price tag. To appear on the list, a school had to achieve a salary score in the 60th percentile or higher and a below-average tuition rate.

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

Here are the findings for the three Houston-area schools:

  • University of Houston-Clear Lake, $7,310 tuition and 71.77 salary score.
  • University of Houston-Downtown, $6,788 tuition and 66.75 salary score.
  • University of Houston, $9,221 tuition and 61.87 salary score.

Here's the full list of Texas schools that made the cut:

  • University of Texas at Austin, $10,824 tuition and 83.25 salary score.
  • University of Texas at Permian Basin in Odessa, $6,666 tuition and 76.33 salary score.
  • Texas Tech University, $9,300 tuition and 74.18 salary score.
  • Texas A&M University in College Station, $12,153 tuition and 72.97 salary score.
  • University of Houston-Clear Lake, $7,310 tuition and 71.77 salary score.
  • University of Houston-Downtown, $6,788 tuition and 66.75 salary score.
  • University of Texas at Arlington, $11,040 tuition and 64.84 salary score.
  • Lamar University in Beaumont, $8,494 tuition and 63.01 salary score.
  • University of North Texas in Denton, $11,044 tuition and 62.78 salary score.
  • University of Houston, $9,221 tuition and 61.87 salary score.

Optimal notes that more than 85 percent of the schools on the list are public. Of the private schools on the list, three-fourths offer courses primarily online.

"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," the company says. "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."

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Building Houston

 
 

SurgWise is giving surgical teams the right support for hiring. Photo via Getty Images

A surgeon spends over a decade in school and residency perfecting their medical skills, but that education doesn't usually include human resources training. Yet, when it comes to placing candidates into surgical programs, the hiring responsibilities fell on the shoulders of surgeons.

Aimee Gardner, who has her PhD in organized psychology, saw this inefficiency first hand.

"I worked in a large surgery department in Dallas right out of graduate school and quickly learned how folks are selected into residency and fellowship programs and all the time that goes into it — time spent by physicians reviewing piles and piles of like paper applications and spending lots and lots and of hours interviewing like hundreds of candidates," Gardner tells InnovationMap. "I was just really shocked by the inefficiencies from just a business and workforce perspective."

And things have only gotten worse. There are more applicants hitting the scene every year and they are applying to more hospitals and programs. Future surgeons used to apply for 20 or so programs — now it’s more like 65 on average. According to her research, Gardner says reviewing these applications cost lots of time and money, specifically $100,000 to fill five spots annually just up to the interviewing phase of the process.

Five years ago, Gardner came up with a solution to this “application fever,” as she describes, and all the inefficiencies, and founded SurgWise Consulting, where she serves as president and CEO.

"We help provide assessments to help screen competencies and attributes that people care about," Gardner says. "(Those) are really hard to assess, but really differentiate people who really thrive in training in their careers and people who don't."

Aimee Gardner is the CEO and president of Houston-based SurgWise. Photo via surgwise.com

These are the non-technical skills, like the professionalism, interpersonal skills, and communication. While SurgWise began as a service-oriented consulting company, the company is now ready to tap technology to expand upon its solution. The work started out of Houston Methodist, and SurgWise is still working with surgery teams there. She says they've accumulated tons of data that can be leveraged and streamlined.

"We're now pivoting from a very intimate client approach to a more scalable offering. Every year we assess essentially around 80 percent of all the people applying to be future surgeons — those in pediatric surgery, vascular surgery, and more,” Gardner says. “We’ve used kind of the last five years of data and experiences to create a more scalable, easy-to-integrate, and off-the-shelf solution.”

Gardner says her solution is critical for providing more equity in the hiring process.

“One of our goals was to create more equitable opportunities and platforms to assess folks because many of the traditional tools and processes that most people use in this space have lots of opportunity for bias and a high potential for disadvantaging individuals from underrepresented groups," she says. "For example, letters of recommendation are often a very insider status. If you went to some Ivy League or your parents were in health care and they know someone, you have that step up from a networking and socioeconomic status standpoint."

Personal statements and test scores are also inequitable, because they tend to be better submissions if people have money for coaching.

SurgWise hopes to lower the number of programs future surgeons apply to too to further streamline the process. She hopes to do this through an app and web tool that can matchmake people to the right program.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a platform for applicants to obtain a lot more information about the various places to which they apply to empower them to make more informed decisions, so that they don't have to apply to a hundred places," Gardner says. "We want to essentially create a match-style app that allows them to input some data and tell us 'here's what I'm looking for here are my career goals and any preferences I have.'”

While that tool is down the road, Gardner says SurgWise is full speed ahead toward launching the data-driven hiring platform. The bootstrapped company hopes to raise early venture funding this summer in order to hire and grow its team.

“As we continue to consider this app that I talked about and some of the other opportunities to scale to other specialties we're gonna start looking for a series A funding later this summer.”

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