These 98 schools are the best online colleges for low-income students. This list was developed using the six-year salaries of low-income students, provided by the government database College Scorecard, and the schools' annual tuition rates to identify the schools that give low-income students the best return on their investment. All of these schools have two-year withdrawal rates for low income students of 50% or less, and offer at least 10 fully online degrees, at least three of which are associate degrees.
2019 Best Value Online Colleges for Low-Income Students
These 23 online schools stand out for the high return on investment they provide their graduates. Their low tuitions and relatively high alumni salaries mean that they offer students who come from low-income families a good chance of achieving a stronger financial future. They also have low two-year withdrawal rates for low-income students. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - Worldwide tops the list with an annual tuition of $11,700 and a six-year salary of low-income students of $48,000 per year. Several community colleges also make the list, such as Pratt Community College, which costs just $4,800 per year and where graduates who were classified as low-income when they enrolled make $33,000 per year. You can read our full methodology for these rankings here.
#1 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - Worldwide
Annual Tuition: $11,700
Locations: Daytona Beach (FL)
Accreditation: SACS COC
Based in Daytona Beach, Florida, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide offers degrees at all levels from 135 campus locations all over the world. Not only is it considered one of the top aviation and aerospace schools in the United States, but it has also received recognition for being the nation's number one online school for bachelor's degrees. Low-income students are provided with a variety of financial aid resources, including one-on-one assistance from a financial counselor. Along with federal and state grants, low-income students can apply for both need-based institutional aid and degree-specific scholarships. For any remaining tuition, students have the opportunity to break up the balance over time with a payment plan.
#2 National University
Annual Tuition: $16,650
Locations: La Jolla (CA)
Founded in 1971 by retired U.S. Navy Capt. David Chigos, National University is a private, non-profit school that offers more than 100 online degree programs. Students can choose to pursue an online associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in fields such as business, education, healthcare and engineering. The San Diego, California-based university's flexible class system offers shortened four-week courses, so students only have to cover the cost of one class at a time. California-based low-income students may also qualify for state and school-funded grants.
#3 Foothill College
Annual Tuition: $8,730
Locations: Los Altos Hills (CA)
Accreditation: WASC ACCJC
Foothill College is a community college located in Los Altos Hills, California. Ranked as one of the best online colleges in the state, several associate degree and certificate programs. Through the Foothill College Promise program, low-income students may be eligible to have their first year's tuition and fees covered. Applicants must be first-time students taking 12 units (or more) per quarter to be considered for the program. Qualified Students who meet the requirements for the California College Promise Grant are also provided with bookstore vouchers to cover the cost of textbooks.
#4 Endicott College
Annual Tuition: $12,210
Locations: Beverly (MA)
Based in Beverly, Massachusetts, Endicott College is home to dozens of online associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs. Regardless of the major, all online students are provided with hands-on learning experiences through an internship requirement. Among its financial aid opportunities are the Endicott College Grants, which are a collection of grants that are awarded to low-income students. In addition, there are numerous scholarship opportunities available for low-income students. The institution also provides a no-interest payment plan that allows students to spread out their tuition costs over several months to ease the burden of a lump sum payment.
#5 Roger Williams University
Annual Tuition: $32,232
Locations: Bristol (RI)
Roger Williams University is a private liberal arts institution in Bristol, Rhode Island, that offers affordable online associate, bachelor and certificate programs. The college serves the financial needs of students by guaranteeing tuition costs for the first four years of enrollment. In addition to a work study program and federal financial aid, RWU offers over $29 million in scholarships and awards every year. Through the institution's Affordable Excellence initiative, low-income students also have the opportunity to earn merit-based scholarships.
#6 Bismarck State College
Annual Tuition: $7,335
Locations: Bismarck (ND)
As a two-year school, Bismarck State College in North Dakota offers career and technical, liberal arts transfer, four-year degrees and energy programs both on campus and online. Its online program includes more than a dozen associate degrees and a Bachelor of Applied Science in Energy Management program. Low-income students are encouraged to work directly with the BSC Financial Aid Office to get assistance with securing the funds necessary to reach their academic goals. The school offers $625,000 worth of scholarship awards; 75% of applicants receive a scholarship. Additionally, active military personnel qualify for an application fee waiver, and the Veteran Dependent Tuition Waiver awards up to ten semesters of free tuition to dependents of disabled veterans.
#7 Georgia State University
Annual Tuition: $3,630
Locations: Atlanta (GA)
Accreditation: SACS COC
Georgia State University is a public research university in Atlanta, Georgia. It is the state's largest institution of higher education with a student population of 53,000. Online students have the chance to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in a variety of fields. Along with financial aid opportunities, GSU offers an installment payment plan for low-income students to defer up to 50 percent of each semester's tuition. For individuals struggling financially, the OnPlanU repayment tool provides an accessible way to handle delinquent accounts and avoid collections. Some students, including active duty military members, may also request tuition waivers.
#8 University of North Georgia
Annual Tuition: $4,770
Locations: Dahlonega (GA)
Accreditation: SACS COC
The University of North Georgia, part of the University System of Georgia, is comprised of five campus locations: Dahlonega, Gainesville, Watkinsville, Blue Ridge and Cumming. As one of the largest public universities in Georgia, the school offers dozens of online certificate, associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in fields including nursing, criminal justice and education. UNG offers more than 300 scholarship funds, totaling over $2 million for low-income students to pursue. The school also awards out-of-state tuition waivers for qualified students, as well as grants for active-duty and retired military servicemen and women.
#9 Weber State University
Annual Tuition: $8,100
Locations: Ogden (UT)
Located in Ogden, Utah, Weber State University rests just north of Salt Lake City. In addition to professional, liberal arts and technical certificates, the university offers online associate, bachelor's and master's degree programs. WSU provides all online and traditional students with reduced costs by allowing out-of-state degree seekers to pay in-state tuition during summer months. The school also awards over $90 million in annual scholarships. Additionally, the Oportunidad Scholarship Fund serves the financial needs of low-income students that aren't eligible for FAFSA.
#10 South Dakota State University
Annual Tuition: $10,201
Locations: Brookings (SD)
With more than 200 academic programs, South Dakota State University is the state’s largest and most comprehensive university. In addition to its campus locations in Pierre, Rapid City, and Sioux Falls, the university has ample online courses available in areas that include nursing, early childhood education, sociology and construction technology. While the school offers multiple financial aid opportunities, The South Dakota Vets Free Tuition program covers all tuition costs for qualified veterans. Low-income students may apply for private scholarships, loans, and federal and state grants.
#11 North Dakota State College of Science
Annual Tuition: $5,952
Locations: Wahpeton (ND)
North Dakota State College of Science is a two-year comprehensive school with campus locations in Wahpeton and Fargo. The school offers online students the ability to earn Associate of Science and Associate of Applied Science degrees in a range of fields, including finance, paramedic technology and administration. Low-income students have access to financial aid opportunities, including grants, scholarships, work-study, and low-interest loans. Through the school’s academic scholarship fund, students with a minimum ACT score of 22 and 3.2 GPA are eligible to receive a $500 scholarship; students entering with a 3.6 GPA and an ACT score of 25 or higher are awarded a $1,000 scholarship.
#12 University of Cincinnati
Annual Tuition: $9,682
Locations: Cincinnati (OH) (and 1 other)
As a public research institution, the University of Cincinnati attracts nearly 46,000 students every year. Many of these individuals seek online bachelor's and master's degrees through the school’s fully-accredited UC Online campus. In addition to applying for federal financial aid, low-income students have access to many in-house scholarships, including need-based options. Additionally, many of the colleges within the university have their own set of grants and awards available to both new and returning students. There are also financial aid resources for individuals interested in taking summer courses. One of these options is the Co-Op education program, which allows students to rotate school and work.
#13 Park University
Annual Tuition: $11,970
Locations: Parkville (MO)
Founded in 1875, Park University is a four-year private institution located in Parkville, Missouri. The school has more than 16,500 students worldwide, many of whom are enrolled in one of PU's 80 online certificate, undergraduate and graduate programs. Online students benefit from many of the same financial aid opportunities as on-campus learners, including freshman and transfer scholarships. There are also several need-based scholarships awarded to low-income degree seekers of all ages and education levels.
#14 Southeast Technical Institute
Annual Tuition: $5,478
Locations: Sioux Falls (SD)
At Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, students can choose from a dozen online Associate in Applied Science degree programs in fields including computer programming, entrepreneurship, business administration, marketing and accounting. Many of the two-year college's low-income students are awarded federal and state grants, but the school's Build Dakota and Southeast Tech scholarship programs offer an additional per-year stipend of between $500 and $1,225 a piece. There are also private scholarship opportunities available to all students.
#15 University of the Incarnate Word
Annual Tuition: $15,900
Locations: San Antonio (TX)
Accreditation: SACS COC
The University of the Incarnate Word is a private Catholic institution whose main campus rests on 154 acres in San Antonio and Alamo Heights, Texas. Founded in 1881 by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, the school’s mission and academics are inspired by Judeo-Christian values. In addition to the courses available on campus, students have access to online undergraduate programs in psychology, public administration and many more fields. Students who are unable to afford the general tuition costs are able to request a Special Circumstances review to qualify for lower tuition rates. Low-income students have access to the university's TRIO program, which offers support and financial aid guidance to help ensure that students reach their goals.
#16 Pratt Community College
Annual Tuition: $4,800
Locations: Pratt (KS)
Pratt Community College is an affordable two-year college located in Pratt, Kansas. In addition to its on-campus classes, Pratt offers online courses and degrees to distance learners. Low-income students at PCC are eligible for many financial aid opportunities, including state and federally-funded grants. The school also offers multiple academic and department-specific scholarships. Additional financial aid opportunities are available for Kansas state residents. Students also have the option of enrolling in a payment plan, which allows them to break up tuition costs into more manageable amounts.
#17 Southern New Hampshire University Online
Annual Tuition: $9,600
Locations: Manchester (NH)
Located in Manchester, Southern New Hampshire University serves around 93,000 on-campus and online students. This four-year university has a variety of online undergraduate programs available, as well as options for those looking to pursue advanced degrees. To assist low-income students in financing their education, the school offers a long list of scholarship and endowment opportunities. Four of these options cater specifically to students of the online Global Campus, including the Martha Van Hyland Scholarship. This scholarship is awarded to low-income students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program.
#18 Wayland Baptist University
Annual Tuition: $12,640
Locations: Plainview (TX)
Accreditation: SACS COC
Located in Plainview, Texas, Wayland Baptist University is a private, coeducational Baptist institution with 14 campuses worldwide. Distance learners have the opportunity to pursue an associate, bachelor’s or master's degree entirely online through WBUOnline. Low-income students have access to federal and state grants, loans, scholarships, work study and veterans benefits. Many options are designated for minority and need-based students. The school also offers reduced tuition rates of $250 per semester hour for active-duty military members.
#19 Wilmington University
Annual Tuition: $11,160
Locations: New Castle (DE)
Wilmington University, located in New Castle, Delaware, has been selected by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in the federal EQUIP program, which is designed to give low-income students the skills they need to participate in today's technology-driven economy. Through EQUIP, low-income students at Wilmington University receive a 90-day software development boot camp, which boasts a 93% job placement rate. For students who are not interested in computer science, Wilmington University also offers other opportunities, such as a variety of grants and scholarships.
#20 Ashland University
Annual Tuition: $7,950
Locations: Ashland (OH)
Ashland University offers myriad ways for low income students to fund their education. More than a dozen different scholarships available, including the Jeannette Rankin Women's Scholarship fund, which is intended for low-income women, and the Dell Scholars Program, for students who have show a desire to overcome significant challenges in order to fulfill their educational goals. The university also offers a variety of grants of different amounts and with different eligibility requirements. Ashland University's online degree offerings span all levels from associate to doctoral, and include degrees such as an Associate of General studies, Bachelor of Criminal Justice, and Doctor of Nursing Practice.
#21 Fort Hays State University
Annual Tuition: $6,560
Locations: Hays (KS)
Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas awards more than $59 million annually in grants, loans and scholarships through its Financial Assistance Office. Students receiving financial aid directly from the university must demonstrate satisfactory academic progress, as defined by the university, in order to continue receiving aid. Low-income students are also eligible to participate in various work-study programs that may help them finance their education. Fort Hay State University offers online associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in subjects like psychology, sociology, business administration, education, and nursing.
#22 University of Toledo
Annual Tuition: $19,403
Locations: Toledo (OH)
The University of Toldeo is committed to helping low-income students receive a high quality education. For students whose ability to stay in school is at risk due to financial hardship, the university offers the Rocket Recovery Emergency Grant, which can help students cover expenses related to housing, utilities, food, medical bills, transportation costs, and childcare costs. The University of Toledo also offers several scholarships, each with its own focus and eligibility requirements. Online students can choose among dozens of degree programs, including a BBA in Accounting, a BS in Health Information Administration, and a Master of Criminal Justice.
#23 Hampton University
Annual Tuition: $9,000
Locations: Hampton (VA)
Accreditation: SACS COC
Hampton University is located in Hampton, Virginia. It is considered a historically black college or university (HBCU), and today, its students represent 49 states and 35 territories and nations. The university offers financial aid to eligible degree-seeking, full-time students, including online students. Online degree programs are offered at every academic level from associate to doctoral. They span a wide range of subjects, such as Aviation Management, Religious Studies, Business Management, Sport Administration, and more.
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