The lifetime value calculates the financial value of a college program over the course of a 45 year career, taking into account a wide range of factors including
tuition costs, potential salary, school graduation rates, and more.
First the cost of tuition and lost salary (assuming a $10/hr career) is summed up for the years of the degree program. For each year after graduation, the difference in after tax earnings with the degree versus without is calculated. The net present value of the overall timeline is then calculated, using a discount rate equal to the current average federal student loan rate (currently just under 6%).
A school's graduation rate is used to weight the probability of actually achieving the post degree salary, in order to calculate the expected value of earning the degree.
Sadly, getting a degree from some college programs is actually worse than working at Walmart. You pay tuition and lose years of earnings and experience, but end up with a salary that doesn't make up for the lost time and debt.
Since the calculation takes into account graduation rate in addition to salary potential, some programs will show poor lifetime value since low graduation rates impact students' earnings heavily.