To be considered for the 2018 Online Colleges for Student Economic Mobility list, schools must have a mobility rate in the top 30 percent of schools offering 10 or more online degrees at the associate level or higher.

Mobility Scores were determined using several data points that are indicative of support for economic diversity and upward mobility. Schools were assessed across several categories and assigned scores based on performance. Each category’s scores were then weighted based on relative importance and combined with the other category scores to determine an overall Mobility score. These categories include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Mobility Rate: Mobility Rate is the percentage of students from the bottom fifth of income distribution in the United States who rise to the top fifth. Schools receive high marks in this category for high mobility rates.
  • Early Career Salary: Schools receive high marks in this category if they had high a high early career median salary, which is fitted pay for employees through their first five years of their careers.
  • Pell Grant Rate: A Pell Grant is money that does not need to be repaid that the government provides for students who need financial assistance. Schools receive high marks in this category if they had a high percentage of students receive Pell Grants.

Annual tuition numbers for these schools were manually researched and represent the bachelor's degree level if the school offers at least one online bachelor's degree or the master's degree level if the school offers at least one master's degree and no online bachelor's degrees. Out-of-state tuitions were used unless in-state tuition is offered to all online students. Tuition was calculated assuming full-time status. Unless otherwise stated, bachelor’s programs were assumed to require four years to complete and master’s programs were assumed to require two years.

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

Mobility rate data is provided by The Equality of Opportunity Project and is publicly accessible on their website. Pell Grant data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics. The NCES is the primary governmental entity for gathering and presenting data related to education. The NCES data is updated annually as soon as it becomes available. The NCES does not release data into downloadable formats until it has been approved, so the most currently available data will not be for the most recent academic year. Early Career Salaries were collected from Payscale. PayScale is the leading provider of compensation data, hosting the largest continuous salary survey and providing analyses about compensation and benefits for individuals and employers.

Program data including available degrees, tuition rates, and details about program coursework were collected from schools' official websites, reflecting data for the 2017-2018 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.

Recommendation rate refers to the percent of students who said they would recommend this school based on reviews submitted to our partner site,
This indicates that a school has an annual tuition of $15,000 or less as reported to the National Center for Education Statistics or based on the school's website.