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

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


These four Houstonians are among the best researchers in the state. Image via Getty Images

Four Houston scientists were named among a total of five Texas rising stars in research by the Texas Academy of Medicine, Engineering, Science & Technology, or TAMEST, last month.

The group will be honored at the 2023 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards by TAMEST in May. According to Edith and Peter O’Donnell Committee Chair Ann Beal Salamone, the researchers "epitomize the Texas can-do spirit."

The Houston winners include:

Medicine: Dr. Jennifer Wargo

A physician and professor of surgical oncology and genomic medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Wargo was named a 2023 honoree for her discoveries surrounding the "important connection between treatment outcomes and a patient’s gut microbiome," according to a statement from TAMEST.

Engineering: Jamie Padgett

The Stanley C. Moore Professor of Engineering at Rice University, Padgett was honored for her work that aims to "enhance reliability and improve the sustainability of critical community infrastructure" through developing new methods for multi-hazard resilience modeling.

Physical sciences: Erez Lieberman Aiden

As a world-leading biophysical scientist and an associate professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine, is being honored for his work that has "dramatically impacting the understanding of genomic 3D structures." He is working with BCM to apply his findings to clinical settings, with the hope that it will eventually be used to treat disease by targeting dark matter in the body.

Technology innovation: Chengbo Li

As a geophysicist at ConocoPhillips, Li is being recognized for innovations in industry-leading Compressive Seismic Imaging (CSI) technology. "This CSI technology allows the oil and gas industry to produce these seismic surveys in less time, with less shots and receivers, and most importantly, with less of an environmental impact," his nominator Jie Zhang, founder and chief scientist of GeoTomo LLC, said in a statement.

James J. Collins III at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas was also named this year's rising star in the biological sciences category for his research on schistosomiasis, a disease that impacts some of the world’s poorest individuals.

The O'Donnell Awards have granted more than $1.5 million to more than 70 recipients since they were founded in 2006. Each award includes a $25,000 honorarium and an invitation to present at TAMEST’s Annual Conference each year, according to TAMEST's website.

The awards expanded in 2002 to include both a physical and biological sciences award each year, thanks to a $1.15 million gift from the O’Donnell Foundation in 2022.

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