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The 10 Worst Colleges In the U.S.

Updated on June 8, 2016

What makes a bad college? The answer may vary depending on who you ask, and the list below is not meant to be authoritative, although I am sure it will be controversial to some. The universities on this list were chosen according to whether they stood out regarding personally-chosen criteria such as cost, return on investment, crime, location, graduation rate, students' rating of professors, class sizes, gender distribution and the general student experience/quality of life. Only regionally accredited universities located in the U.S. are included, and military academies and community colleges were not considered. Institutes such as DeVry, University of Phoenix, ITT, etc. have also been excluded. Only colleges for which relevant data is available have been listed.


1. University of New Mexico (New Mexico)

UNM is a large public university that is ranked at #181 in national surveys and has some recognized programs. However, it has an underwhelming graduation rate of only 13%, and seems to lean towards larger class sizes, with more than half of all classes accommodating 20 students or more. UNM is also one of the most dangerous colleges in the country, with FBI crime statistics ranking it as the 7th most dangerous campus in the nation. Property and violent crimes are certainly not an everyday occurrence, but not uncommon.


2. Southern University at New Orleans (Louisiana)

This public college was founded in 1956, and has an acceptance rate of about 17%. Despite the difficulty in getting in, Southern University offers relatively few programs. Tuition is fairly low, even for out-of-state students, but what really kills this college is that is has one of the lowest graduation rates in the country, at an abysmal 5%. The southern Louisiana humidity is nothing to laugh at either, to say nothing of New Orleans’ higher than average crime rate.

3. University of the District of Columbia (DC)

The University of DC has relatively low tuition costs, but its very low graduation rate of 6% puts it near the bottom of the list as far as prestige and academics. Complaints from students include distant and unresponsive administration, below par buildings and facilities and a lack of social activities. Low enrollment sometimes causes certain classes to be cancelled, leaving those already registered high and dry. Its urban setting will also not be a lot of people’s cup of tea.

What is ROI?

ROI, or return on investment, as used on this list is defined by PayScale as:

"the total earnings, minus the cost of the degree, minus the average earnings over the person with only a high school education..."

4. Miles College (Alabama)

This historically Black college in Birmingham has tuition costs that are certainly not above average. The problem is that the return on investment is among the worst in the United States: a four-year degree can cost you about $92,280, while your ROI would stand at approximately -$178,000. While the student body is small (at about 1,700 students), a paltry 21% of enrollees graduate. Crime also seems to be an issue in the area around campus.

5. New Jersey Institute of Technology (New Jersey)

You would think that the main problem with this engineering school is that it’s located in (a) Newark, and (b) New Jersey. But the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s two main problems seem to be its price and the dislike its students have for its professors. RateMyProfessor.Com ranks this school at number 5 in its ranking of worst professors (probably not unusual for an engineering college, but it is ranked pretty high). In-state tuition is a considerable $15,000 a year, while out of state is a whopping $28,000, although a decent return on investment probably balances this out a little. Its four year graduation rate is a very unimpressive 19%.


6. Milwaukee School of Engineering (Wisconsin)

While this private engineering school is well-ranked in terms of academics, the student experience seems to not be as good. MOSE’s students have ranked the school’s professors the 4th worst in the nation on, which is bad even for an engineering college. It is also pricey, with annual tuition standing at an eye-watering $34,000. If you’re looking to do some partying while pursuing your education, or you’re a guy, keep in mind that the student body is 78% male, which very likely limits social opportunities and the overall experience.


7. Valley Forge Christian College (Pennsylvania)

While it’s not too difficult to get admitted to this private, religious college, it also has some of the worst return on investment out of all ranked U.S. colleges. A 4-year degree here will likely cost about $114,000, while your ROI over thirty years would be a stomach-churning -$178,000, apparently the worst in the country. Valley Forge Christian College’s graduation rate stands at around 47%, and it's probably safe to say it's not a "fun" school.

8. Florida Memorial University

This small, private Miami-area school offers a rather limited range of programs, mostly in less lucrative fields like social work and psychology, which partly explains its low ROI. A four-year degree costing $116,100 will yield a 30-year ROI of -$114,000. It also has a mediocre 6-year graduation rate of 37%, despite a fairly low student-to-faculty ratio. The Miami Gardens area has a crime rate that is well above the state and national averages.


9. University of Maine at Presque Isle (Maine)

This public liberal arts college is in a beautiful rural setting, and the teacher to student ratio is pretty good. However, it has a low 4-year graduation rate of 19%, and has one of the worst return on investment ratings in the nation for its 4-year degrees, with a $79,330 diploma giving you an ROI of -$124,000. The student body is also very lopsided, with almost two-thirds of the enrollees being female, although this may be a selling point for some people. And let’s not even get into what winter in Maine entails.


10. San Diego State University (California)

While San Diego is beautiful and would be a great place to go to college, San Diego State is also the country’s 6th most crime-ridden campus, according to FBI crime statistics. About 32% of students graduate from this college, and class sizes tend to be larger than average, with a faculty to student ratio of 23:1. Out-of-state tuition is about $17,000 per year.


US News & World Report, Wikipedia, Business Insider, FBI, Rate My Professor, Cappex, PayScale, Forbes, FindTheBest.Com.



Do you think a college education is worth the financial sacrifice?

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    • profile image

      Lil Pump 4 weeks ago

      I got into every ivy league, and I got into Stanford. However, education isn't important in life. I decided to not attend college at all.

    • profile image

      Bob Smith 4 weeks ago

      I don't know of any terrible colleges, but i view college in general to be useful-- if u allow it to be. It all depends on your scenario, major,etc. i.e if u are majoring in something with no employment, and party all four years and take out $100,000 + loans, then its pointless. However if u are majoring in a good field ( Medical, engineering, accounting, etc) and take it seriously then it will be a great time!

    • profile image

      ask bout me 2 months ago

      Southern has the best BAND tho!

    • profile image

      Bill Nye 2 months ago

      I think college is stupid. College didn't teach anyone anyhting :) :) :) :) :)

    • profile image

      ips delivery 3 months ago

      the worst colleges are the one s who accept everyone this is why homeschooling is the best one on one sesions


    • profile image

      chris boi 101 3 months ago

      i,m so going to new mexico coolage

    • profile image

      Jay Martin 4 months ago

      DeVry university is the worst scam fake university to attend. Lost over 100 Grand and they put me as withdrawn instead of graduated eventhough I have a diploma.

    • profile image

      Koadey Kambell 4 months ago

      I nominate Point Park University as the worst University in the country. I literally felt that I got nothing out of my degree, and the classes are not relevant and I feel that I will have to attend Grad School and hopefully, make up for the slack caused by Point Park.

      Also, they won't give a student a job on campus based off of a certain race, gender, and sexuality and even a professor admitted they don't like to hire minorities into faculty. To add to their racist demeanor, they didn't use to not have MLK day off and once serviced fried chicken, collard green, watermelon, and cornbread for Black history month.

      Not to mention, the campus is a disaster, I've had my life threatened by two staff and my credit card used by another fraudulently. Not to mention, the security let in intruders and police have ignored all of complaints. They also don't like to accommodate students with disabilities, they will tell them "you're just making excuses". When I visited Detroit, I felt safer there than I did on campus.

    • profile image

      Good morning 5 months ago

      I thought India has the worst colleges but....

    • profile image

      kk 6 months ago

      this a nice and cool website

    • profile image

      Mac 6 months ago

      In my opinion, this is a very inaccurate article! I have worked with smart people who have graduated from both SDSU and UNM and they are able to hold their own against, and often outperform graduates from more prestigious schools (UC Berkeley, Purdue, etc...). Also, if campus safety is a factor, how come USC or John Hopkins are not on the list?

    • profile image

      Ray 6 months ago

      How does a low graduation rate lead to a university being bad? I would think it was the opposite way, a university that lets all students graduate regardless of their academic merit is truly bad and one that has a lower graduation rate would tend to be better (Especially if it is also difficult to enter).

    • profile image

      xFlameThrower 7 months ago

      Using Website for one of my projects for school. Thanks

    • profile image

      Josh 11 months ago

      Take a look at Winona State in Winona, MN.

      Their Facebook page has a ton of negative reviews regarding bullying and bad teachers.

      I myself have been stalked by professors from here because they're worried about what I say regarding the Unviersity.

    • profile image

      logan 11 months ago

      my thing is dont let negtive get to you i go to duke

    • profile image

      Jaysarh 12 months ago

      This is the most inaccurate article and the validity of it is completely false

    • profile image

      CheddarCheese 17 months ago

      I know it's not a college- but the worst school I HAVE EVER KNOWN is far worse than these. It is Coleman Middle School in Tampa, Florida. The administration at this poop dump break the law all the time and cover each other's butts to avoid punishment. The Principal is a BULLY. He bullies students and misuses power. The guidance counselor are so rude and disrespectful to everyone. The administration does illegal stuff all the time like violate the 1st Amendment and Title IX. There is so much nepotism and cronyism and corruption there it is unbelievable. The school is rated and A school though because it is in an affluent neighborhood and parents can pay for extra tutoring, etc. I learned a lot from this school- but not from the curriculum. I learned about LAW from having to REPORT all the ILLEGAL things the administration does!!! Don't be fooled by this place.

    • erinshelby profile image

      erinshelby 18 months ago from United States

      What an interesting hub! As the cost of college continues to rise, more folks will be interested in the return on their investments... it will be necessary to scrutinize how much of a benefit the college degree will really be.

    • profile image

      Elisabeth 20 months ago

      Anyone heard of or attended University of Hartforf,ct ?

      Thanks for any unbiased information.

    • profile image

      ninacalada 20 months ago

      Of course Capella University is bad, it's a for-profit school

    • DebraHargrove profile image

      Debra Hargrove 2 years ago from North Carolina

      Funny Hub, I wouldn't have the nerve to write about the worst college. That takes lots of courage.

    • profile image

      PHD 2 years ago

      Do not go to Nyack College. 40 percent graduation rate. $90 thousand tuition for 4 years. Limited faculty and resources and poor quality of education and it is equivalent to a High School education. Might as well save your time and money for post-graduate studies at a better institution.

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      HorribleSchool 3 years ago

      DO NOT GO TO CAPELLA UNIVERSITY! I wasted 7 years and $80,000 + and got straight A's and they still would not let me graduate. THE DEGREE IS WORTHLESS ANYWAY and that is why they will not let you graduate so that no one finds out the degree is worthless. DO NOT GO TO CAPELLA UNIVERSITY! Capella University will not teach you anything!

    • TimArends profile image

      Timothy Arends 3 years ago from Chicago Region

      Interesting hub! It seems to me that, if there is one constant involved here, it is that the most poorly rated universities tend to be in the lowest quality, Most crime ridden regions of the country. Such low-quality regions are also going to draw low-quality students.

    • BillAlvarez profile image

      Bill Alvarez 3 years ago

      Thanks for the comment, Rebecca. Just as important as knowing what college(s) to go to is knowing which ones to avoid!

    • Rebeccasutton profile image

      Rebecca Sutton 3 years ago from Rock Hill, SC

      I hope this doesn't sound negative, but it is nice to see an article that isn't all hype about how great one school or another is. I think your article puts things into a realists perspective and is something students need to consider. Good work!