The 10 Worst Colleges In the U.S.

Updated on January 15, 2018

(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.



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

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    • profile image

      Saleem Agha 3 weeks ago

      The City College Cuny is the worst school ever. One Uyar who teaches computer engineering is a scab and a dull witted person, whose knowledge of computers is less than that of a goat!

    • profile image

      Wm. Hodgson 4 weeks ago

      Capella University should be on this list

    • profile image

      Gycfddgggfcht 6 weeks ago

      Why are these bad colleges?????? Tell me now, NOW. Please?

    • profile image

      EZWinFornite 3 months ago

      Where is harvard at?

    • profile image

      IHATENCSTAE 4 months ago

      ummmmmm ive seen worse

    • profile image

      MCSM DROPOUT 4 months ago

      I am afraid to say that these are not the worst colleges out there. The worst college in fact is Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics. The teachers are very obese and do not speak very much English. I don't speak autism so I cannot understand what they are saying most of the time. I advise that no one ever attend such a horrendous institution. Also my mixtape is coming out soon. Wait for "I'm a Humble Fucking Beast" coming to stores near you soon.

    • profile image

      Diane Mcvey 4 months ago

      Add Drew University to that list! Most inefficient administration and at the same time one of the most expensive! Don't go!

    • profile image

      On The Edge 4 months ago

      Louisiana Tech University is one of the worst colleges. Everyone grits their teeth and grins while wishing they were dead, all the while knowing they can't die because they've sold their souls to the place.

    • profile image

      isaylee 5 months ago


    • profile image

      Lil Pump 7 months 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 7 months 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 9 months ago

      Southern has the best BAND tho!

    • profile image

      Bill Nye 9 months ago

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

    • profile image

      ips delivery 9 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 10 months ago

      i,m so going to new mexico coolage

    • profile image

      Jay Martin 10 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 11 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 12 months ago

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

    • profile image

      kk 12 months ago

      this a nice and cool website

    • profile image

      Mac 13 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 13 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 13 months ago

      Using Website for one of my projects for school. Thanks

    • profile image

      Josh 17 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 18 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Jaysarh 18 months ago

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

    • profile image

      CheddarCheese 23 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 2 years 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 2 years ago

      Anyone heard of or attended University of Hartforf,ct ?

      Thanks for any unbiased information.

    • profile image

      ninacalada 2 years 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 3 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.

    • profile image

      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!


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