# The Colleges Where Low-Income Students Get the Highest ROI

## Summary

College typically pays off for low-income students, but not as much as it does for their peers. Low-income students, whose families earn $30,000 or less per year, comprise more than one-third of college students. The Colleges Where Low-Income Students Get the Highest ROI finds that low-income students have a lower return on investment (ROI) than all students, largely because they tend to earn less as adults. This holds true across public and private institutions and certificates, associateâ€™s degrees, and bachelorâ€™s degrees. Among institutions that primarily award bachelorâ€™s degrees, public institutions generally lead to the highest ROI for low-income students during a 40-year timeframe ($951,000), followed by private nonprofit institutions ($863,000) and for-profit colleges ($763,000). The ROI for low-income students follows a similar pattern at colleges that primarily grant associateâ€™s degrees and certificates, with the highest returns from public institutions, followed by private nonprofit and for-profit institutions. However, low-income studentsâ€™ returns from associateâ€™s degrees can exceed $1 million, and certificates can be just as lucrative, depending on which college a student attends.

## Find Your College

Explore the table below to see which colleges and universities provide the highest ROI to low-income students. To recognize colleges that are good values for low-income students, the table includes a score that gives additional weight to such factors as the percentage of low-income students who are enrolled, their graduation rates, and their long-term ROI.

## Net Present Value

Net present value (NPV) is how much a sum of money in the future is valued today. This metric includes costs, future earnings, and the length of time it would take to invest and earn a certain amount of money over a fixed horizon. In this table, 40-year NPV is used as a measure of studentsâ€™ return on investment (ROI) for a credential.

## Net Price

This is the average net cost of attendance, which includes tuition, fees, books and supplies, and living expenses, minus aid received from all sources.

## Percent Pell

We use the share of students who are Pell Grant recipients at a college as a proxy for the number of low-income students at that institution. These two groups are close but not identical, however, because some students from families with annual incomes greater than $30,000 are eligible for Pell Grants.

## Pell Graduation Rate

The Pell graduation rate reflects the graduation rate of Pell Grant recipients at an institution.

## Weighted Score

An institutionâ€™s weighted score takes into account three factors: the percentage of students at an institution who receive Pell Grants, the graduation rates of Pell Grant students, and the percentile rank of 40-year earnings of Pell Grant students. For institutions that primarily award bachelorâ€™s degrees, the weighted score gives more credit to those whose enrollments include higher percentages of Pell Grant recipients. The enrollment rate of low-income students received 40 percent of the weight, while low-income studentsâ€™ graduation rates and earnings each received 30 percent of the weight.

Institutions that predominantly award certificates and associateâ€™s degrees already enroll a large percentage of low-income students, so the CEW score gives low-income studentsâ€™ graduation rates and their expected 40-year earnings 40 percent of the weight each and the percentage of students who are low-income 20 percent of the weight.

Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis of US Department of Education College Scorecard data, 2020.

Note: The “high percent Pell” tabs include only colleges that admit greater than the median percentage of Pell Grant recipients.

## Resources

*The Colleges Where Low-Income Students Get the Highest ROI* finds that overall, low-income students get the best financial returns from attending public institutions.