The 10 Worst Colleges In the U.S.


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.



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Comments 10 comments

Rebeccasutton profile image

Rebeccasutton 2 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!

BillAlvarez profile image

BillAlvarez 2 years ago from Fort Worth, TX Author

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

TimArends profile image

TimArends 2 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.

HorribleSchool 23 months 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!

PHD 16 months 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.

DebraHargrove profile image

DebraHargrove 13 months ago from North Carolina

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

ninacalada 6 months ago

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

Elisabeth 6 months ago

Anyone heard of or attended University of Hartforf,ct ?

Thanks for any unbiased information.

erinshelby profile image

erinshelby 5 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.

CheddarCheese 3 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.

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