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Low-Income Students Methodology

In order to be considered for our 2019 Most Affordable Online Colleges for Low Income Students, schools needed to meet the following criteria:

  • Offer at least 10 fully online degrees, at least three of which are associate degrees.
  • Have regional or national accreditation.
  • Have a withdrawal rate of 50% or less for low-income students.

Schools were then ranked according to the return on investment (ROI) that they offer low-income students. The ROI was calculated using an internal formula that takes into account tuition rates and the salaries earned by students who were classified as low-income when they enrolled.

Annual tuition numbers for these schools were manually researched and represent the associate degree level. Out-of-state tuitions were used unless in-state tuition is offered to all online students. Tuition was calculated assuming full-time status.

Fully Online Status

Schools with programs that require some on-campus coursework were still considered for our rankings if the amount of in-person work was limited to less than two weeks worth of in-person requirements. This allows students to retain their current employment or other personal responsibilities.

Data Sources

Withdrawal rates and salaries were collected form College Scorecard, a database published and maintained by the U.S. Department of Education. Salaries data is specific to students who were classified as low-income when they enrolled, and represents their incomes six years after first enrollment. College Scorecard does not display data until it has been approved, so the most current data available will not be for the most recent academic year.

Program data including available degrees, tuition rates, and details about program coursework were collected from schools' official websites, reflecting data for the 2018-2019 school year. Programmatic accreditation and profit status of schools were collected from official websites of the accreditation agencies or from the National Center for Education Statistics.