The 10 Worst Colleges In the U.S.
(Updated for 2018)
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. Shaw University (North Carolina)
Shaw University is a private institution founded in 1865 and is located in urban Raleigh. It is ranked low on most college lists due to its deficient faculty (which only earns a 2.1 out of 5 on RateMyProfessor.Com) and its very low ROI (return-on-investment), which is a staggering negative $110,000. The cost of a 4-year education at Shaw can set you back $111,000, according to Think Advisor, with the median starting salary of alumni being about 37,800, per US News. A student comment on Rate My Professor seems to sum up the consensus: "Shaw University is a terrible institution. #transfer".
2. Mt. Sierra College (California)
This small, private, for-profit school in Monrovia, California was founded in 1990 and offers degrees in technology, design and business. Washington Monthly has ranked it among its top 10 worst overall colleges, taking into consideration aspects such as average student debt, graduation rate and default rate. Tuition for a year at Mt. Sierra can cost nearly $16,000, and while the teacher/student ratio seems to be very low, College Factual states that only 6.2% of first-time and/or full-time students graduate before either two or four years (depending on the type of degree). Also, a paltry 28% graduate at all. These are some of the worst graduation numbers in the United States.
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..."
3. University of Montevallo (Alabama)
This relatively small public university has an eye-wateringly bad 20-Year net return-on-investment of -$77,000, while a 4-Year degree here will cost you around $86,100. The loan default rate is high, and class sizes seem to tend towards larger ones. The on-time graduation rate is an unimpressive 21%, according to College Factual. While by most accounts the campus is beautiful and the facilities are nice, there doesn't seem to be much of a social scene in the town, especially when school is out. Students on RateMyProfessor gave the on-campus food a rating of 2.8 out of 5.
4. University of the District of Columbia (DC)
The University of DC has relatively low tuition costs, but its very low graduation rate of 12% puts it near the bottom of the list as far as prestige and academics. Besides this, the loan default rate among students is high, and only 40% of the faculty is full-time. 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.
5. Nazarene Bible College (Colorado)
This (clearly) religious, private school in Colorado Springs has an impressive 0.0 quality rating of RateMyProfessor, and only 10% of the faculty is full-time. While tuition for a year may run you about $11,000 a year (certainly not the worst out there, but not great), College Factual rates the loan default rate as "high", and only about 20% of students graduate on time. To compound its unattractiveness, the student body is 59% male and 41% female, very much unlike most (non-STEM heavy) schools. Its best ranked major seems to be Philosophy, which is not surprising, but also probably not very marketable in the labor force.
6. Fayetteville State University (North Carolina)
Fayetteville State is a public university in a midsize city setting, and while students on RMP rate it a middling 3.0 out of 5.0, its 20-year ROI is a terrifying -$58,000, with the cost of a 4-year degree at around $54,500 (out of state). Its on-time graduation rate is a very low 16%, and graduates can expect to start their professional careers after attending this school with an average salary of $33,000 a year. Students give the category of "safety" at this school a worrisome 2.6 out of 5 on RMP, with a student commenting "the area around campus is pretty run down".
7. Fountainhead College of Technology (Tennessee)
Listed as the 3rd overall worst college in the nation by Washington Monthly, this STEM-heavy private college has an on-time graduation rate of only 5%, and the average total student loan amount is over $41,000, although that may be offset by the default rate being fairly low. ROI is probably not as big of an issue for Fountainhead as it may be for other schools on this list, but this school is definitely on the obscure side, with no entry in the US News college rankings, or even a Wikipedia entry. Another downside to some would be the gender ratio (83% male!) and students on RMP give the food a rating of 1 out of 5.
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 year of tuition will cost around $21,000, and the school has demonstrated a low ROI in previous years. The rate of student loan debt defaults is rated as "high" by College Factual. It also has a terrible on-time graduation rate of 13%, 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, and this is also often listed as a concern for those either studying or considering FMS.
9. Univ. of South Carolina - Aiken (South Carolina)
This public suburban university has average class sizes and loan default rates, but its 20-year return on investment is a disheartening -$40,000, among the worst in the nation. Not surprisingly, the out-of-state tuition cost for a 4-year degree goes past the $80,000 mark. Its on-time graduation rate is an unimpressive 24% and is ranked 1109 out of 1383 colleges nationwide by College Factual. About half of the school's faculty is full-time.
10. St. Francis University (Pennsylvania)
St. Francis is a private, non-profit Catholic college with enrollment of about 2,700. While class sizes are average, its 20-year ROI is -$26,000, with the cost of a four-year degree hovering around a gut-churning $177,000. The average student loan is over $43,000, although the default rate is low. The on-time graduation rate is a microscopic 4%. Despite that, students on RMP give it a not-terrible rating of 3.4 out of 5 overall and crime in the area is low. The typical graduate can expect an average annual salary after graduation of about $36,000.
US News & World Report, Wikipedia, Business Insider, Think Advisor, Rate My Professor, The Street, College Factual.