50-50 Highlights: Colleges for Students with Low Family Income–and which to avoid

sttudent representing average net price for families with low incomeRobert J. Kibbee, the former Chancellor of City University New York, observed “Over the years, we have come to identify quality in a college not by whom it serves but by how many students it excludes. Let us not be a sacred priesthood protecting the temple, but rather the fulfillers of dreams.” And if the dreams fulfilled aren’t going to be determined by family income, colleges are going to need to provide substantial financial aid to the neediest students.

The premise behind the 50-50 listing is that these schools are accessible academically to most students and help their students graduate. Yet, not all of them do an equally good job in being affordable. In this post, I’m going to look at how accessible the 50-50 colleges for low-income students.

How Much Do Low Income Students Pay After Financial Aid?

My methodology is limited. I’m just going to be looking at the Average Net Price for families with income of $30,000 or less. This is the amount students are charged after any gift aid. So students can still take out Direct loans to cover some of the net price.

It’s important to keep in mind that these are averages. Some students will be paying less and some will be paying more.

As usual, I separated private and public institutions. I included public universities on the lowest list if the average net price for families with incomes of $30,000 or less was under $10,000. If it was over $15,000, they made the highest list.

For private colleges, if the average was under $15,000 (I know, not exactly affordable), they made the lowest list. Private colleges are on the highest list if the average net price for students with family income of $30,000 or less was over $25,000.

Which States Have the Most Colleges for Low Income Students?

New York had the most public universities of on the lowest list with seven schools. Wisconsin came in second with six followed by California and Washington five each.

Eleven of the 25 schools on the list of the public institutions with the highest averages are in Pennsylvania. Yikes! Of the ten states that had public schools on the highest list, four, Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey, and Virginia, are also represented on the lowest list.

Indiana had the most private colleges with “low” average net price for low-income students with eight colleges making the list. New York was second with six, followed by Minnesota with three.

Pennsylvania and California lead the list with the most private colleges with the highest average net price for the lowest income category. Each placed five schools on the list. Connecticut followed with four colleges and Florida and Washington tied with three.

Furthermore, 18 of the 37 private colleges on the highest list, had 20% or fewer of freshman receiving Pell Grants. It’s not like these schools are overwhelmed with needy students. Only two of the 45 private colleges on the lowest list had 20% or fewer of freshman receiving Pell Grants.

The following tables of 50-50 schools use the four-year graduation rate for private institutions and the five-year rate for public schools.

50-50 Colleges Sorted by Average Net Price for
Families with Incomes of $30,000 or Less





Colleges with lowest average net price for families in lowest income category that accept at least 50% of students and have at least a 50% graduation rate.

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