Going away to college is one of the most exciting experiences in life. Ideally, higher education should be fun and intellectually stimulating, with the college itself being a place where you form lasting relationships. It should also position you for a thriving future in the world of work. And with all that in mind, you may want to avoid the following 40 institutions. A few of the entries may well even shock you.
40. Fayetteville State University
Located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, this school is situated in what has been called the grimmest area of the city. A recent student review on Rate My Professors claimed, “I get phone calls, e-mails, text alerts at least two to three times a month of someone getting stabbed, shot, a body found, or mugged.” The graduation rate is also a fairly low 35.33 percent, according to Univ Stats, which is far from great on an academic level.
39. Florida Memorial University
During 2019 36.14 percent of the students who started a four-year bachelor’s degree at Florida Memorial University graduated. This isn’t a stellar rate, and when you add the fact that some students have accused the professors of being disrespectful to them, it doesn’t make for a great picture. An anonymous review on Rate My Professors even stated, “I would not recommend anyone to come here.” Ouch.
38. Grambling State University
According to Bill Alvarez of Owlcation, graduating from Grambling State University in Louisiana will get you a return on your investment of $61,100 over two decades. That’s not so bad compared to some of the other institutions on this list. But the rural location of the school is a major stumbling block, with the area being called boring, yet also dangerous and rife with narcotics and firearms.
37. Lindsey Wilson College
With a staggeringly bad estimated return on investment of minus $160,800 over 20 years, it’s no wonder Lindsey Wilson College made the Owlcation list of worst colleges in America. To be fair, though, many on Rate My Professors praised the small, intimate nature of the school. But one unhappy student did write, “If you’re from rural Kentucky, this is the school for you. Anybody with some culture outside the Bible Belt will find it hard to adapt.”
36. Morris College
According to College Factual, South Carolina’s Morris College is ranked 1,541st out of 1,715 universities in the U.S. That’s pretty darn low. Owlcation estimates a student would lose $106,800 over two decades due to the average salary after graduation being only a little over $30,000. Oh, and a damning review on Rate My Professors reads, “They are very far behind in technology and other things that a lot of schools have upgraded to.”
35. University of the District of Columbia
This university is in a good location in Washington, D.C., and the average salary for new graduates is a healthy $51,300. But the rate of graduation is a pitiful 23.5 percent, according to Univ Stats, and there are repeated complaints on Rate My Professors of an uncaring and lazy administration. A reviewer stated, “I would like to attend UDC, however nobody ever answers the phone there and all my e-mails go unanswered.”
34. University of Montevallo
The University of Montevallo is relatively small, with a student population of a little over 2,500 and a graduation rate of close to 50 percent. Those aren’t the worst numbers you’ll see on this list, and many of the students seem happy there. But the estimated return on investment over 20 years is minus $20,200 according to Owlcation, and the sleepy rural nature of the Alabama town means the “true college experience” is elusive for some, according to a Rate My Professors review.
33. University of South Carolina, Aiken
The main negative aspect of the University of South Carolina, Aiken, according to many of the students, is the location. A reviewer complained, “Very boring here – there’s nothing to do on campus or in the Aiken area. It’s like an old retirement town.” Worse than that, by most accounts the food at the institution is terrible, with a scathing piece of feedback recommending, “If you have a meal plan, don’t waste the money.”
32. Shaw University
The College Factual rankings for the historic Shaw University make for chastening reading. It’s down as the worst school in North Carolina and comes in at 1,675 out of 1,715 schools in America. That means there are only 40 worse institutions in the country. A disillusioned student reviewer slammed the school, writing, “Shaw University is a terrible institution. #transfer”
31. Emmanuel College
According to PayScale, students who graduate from Emmanuel College will have a negative return on investment over two decades of more than $70,000. The school is a Christian institution in Georgia and has been accused of catering only to white conservatives. A student review read, “Lots of fake people who pretend to be holier than thou but sneak around,” while another called most of the students “hypocrites” and added, “There is a lack of diversity.” Yikes.
30. University of Maine at Machias
“This campus is slowly dying,” wrote a Rate My Professor reviewer about the University of Maine at Machias. “School is beginning to fall apart,” added another. A third claimed, “This place is terrible. Go somewhere else. I can’t wait to transfer.” Considering a prospective student would need to pay $124,000 in tuition fees over five years, and PayScale says the return on investment is minus $70,700, attending this school doesn’t sound like it would be money well spent.
29. University of Montana Western
The University of Montana Western is a great choice of school for an “outdoorsy” person who wants to become a teacher, according to Rate My Professors. If you don’t fall under that umbrella, though, it may not be for you. A student reviewer complained that “there are tons of other majors that are often overlooked.” Another pointed out that the meal plan prices were “outrageous” and claimed that money was used to “subsidize the football team.”
28. Campbellsville University
Only two of the 27 universities in Kentucky rank below Campbellsville University according to College Factual, which doesn’t exactly fill you with optimism. PayScale also estimates a minus $76,800 return on investment over 20 years. Perhaps the strangest thing, though, is that Finance 101 states that the school has a Technical Education Department that receives a great deal of funding, yet you aren’t able to attain any kind of technical degree there. What’s up with that?
27. St. Augustine’s University
At St. Augustine’s University tuition is extremely expensive, but many students claim the education you receive isn’t worth the money. An especially vitriolic review read, “The buildings are absolutely disgusting, the professors, for the most part, are lunatics and seem underqualified. The school has had many accreditation issues. Do not go here.” According to Money Inc, the school also has a high student loan default rate, meaning alumni struggle to earn enough to pay their loans back.
26. Stillman College
Stillman College, which is situated in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, has a lowly graduation quota of 27 percent. That’s bad enough, and the transfer-out level of 44 percent is also damning when you consider that there are currently fewer than 800 students at the university. In other words, 351, or almost half, of those students will choose to move their studies to another college. Oh dear.
25. Unity College
Univ Stats puts the acceptance rate of Maine’s Unity College at 98 percent, which of course means you’re extremely likely to get into the school. But the enrolment rate is far lower, at a little over one-fifth. So maybe it’s not a good sign that so few of those who receive offers from the school actually choose to go there. The tuition fees are also sky high, which makes the minus $82,100 return on investment estimated by Finance 101 extra galling.
24. Wilson College
Wilson College came in the bottom 20 out of 123 universities in Pennsylvania, according to College Factual. A student reviewer wrote, “Certain majors are good, and some aren’t. The school needs to get their stuff together and figure out how to budget correctly.” For what it’s worth, the college is also very heavily weighted toward female students. Amazingly, it only began admitting males in 2013 and still has a 79 percent female/21 percent male split.
23. Emory & Henry College
Emory & Henry College’s estimated return on investment over 20 years is enough to make you weep. According to PayScale, you will lose $91,300 over that period. While many of the student reviews are positive, that bleak financial outlook for a student’s working life can’t be ignored. College is supposed to set you up for the future, after all, not saddle you with debt you’ll never earn enough to repay.
22. Brewton-Parker College
Brewton-Parker College is in Mount Vernon, Georgia, which has fewer than than 2,500 inhabitants. According to Finance 101, the student populace of the university is literally half the population of the town. Which is crazy. But will attending this student-haven lead to big things in your future? Probably not, as you’ll be saddled with a $92,200 loss in terms of return on investment in the two decades after you leave.
21. Paine College
There are 469 students attending Paine College in Augusta, Georgia. It has an average graduation level of 13 percent, or only 61 students. This is a very worrying indication of the school’s quality. A review on Rate My Professors also tore into the facilities, stating, “This school is absolutely disgusting; jail cell bathrooms are nicer than Paine College bathrooms. Everything has dust on it and smells terrible.” It doesn’t sound great, to be honest.
20. Rust College
Dating back to 1866, only one other institution of its kind in Mississippi has been running for longer than Rust College. But according to a February 2020 Rate My Professors review, its best days may be well behind it. The review claimed the school is “in need of full renovation, including the dismissal of many faculty. The buildings are old, the technology is not up to date, the back of the cafeteria smells like mold…” It went on for a few sentences more, but you get the drift.
19. Johnson University
PayScale estimates that studying at Johnson University will leave you close to $100,000 in the hole 20 years after you depart. The school is focused on religious studies, and it has a decent graduation level of 44 percent. But the job market for people with religious degrees isn’t exactly booming, hence the estimated return on investment that would make anyone weep.
18. Cazenovia College
This college is in rural Cazenovia, New York, and fewer than 900 students study there. Like many other small schools, which boast more one-to-one interaction between students and their professors, the tuition costs are exorbitant: in excess of $35,000 per year. The quaint nature of the school clearly rubbed one Rate My Professors reviewer the wrong way, as they wrote, “If you want a normal college experience, do not go here. It is so small, and the surrounding city has absolutely nothing to do.”
17. St. Andrew’s University
This liberal arts college in Laurinburg, North Carolina, doesn’t fare well on the College Factual rankings. It comes in 1,562nd out of 1,715 schools nationwide and among the bottom ten in North Carolina. It’s a small institution with only 683 students enrolled, but some of them have given the place some pretty terrible reviews on Rate My Professors, including an alarming one out of five for “overall safety.”
16. Benedict College
Ranked as the worst school in South Carolina by College Factual, Benedict College also places extremely low in the nationwide rankings: 1,653rd out of 1,715. According to Univ Stats, the graduation level is below one-quarter and close to 30 percent of the students who start a course wind up transferring elsewhere. PayScale also estimates graduates will see a harrowing loss of more than $100,000 over two decades, which is a horrendous return on investment.
15. Montserrat College of Art
Only 367 students are currently enrolled at Montserrat College of Art, which makes it the smallest school on this list. It’s classified as a lowly 56th out of 68 schools in Massachusetts. Interestingly, though, in among the standard Rate My Professors complaints, an attendee wrote, “Sadly the school is filled to the brim with lazy students who aren’t serious, don’t try, and put the bare minimum effort into their work.” So perhaps the school itself isn’t entirely the problem here?
14. Martin Luther College
This one is intriguing because, by most metrics, Martin Luther College performs much better than many schools on this list. College Factual ranks it a respectable 350th out of more than 1,700 U.S. colleges and it comes just outside of the top ten among 37 such institutions in Minnesota. The college also graduates 69 percent of its students. But PayScale estimates those graduates will be in a deep financial hole for the next 20 years, as it projects them to be down almost $125,200 in that period. Yikes.
13. Claflin University
Claflin University holds an important place in history, as it was the earliest American college to have female African-American graduates way back in the 1880s. But these days the picture isn’t great, with College Factual revealing a little over one-tenth of students graduate within four years. This is considerably below the 33 percent U.S. average. The median earnings of a Claflin graduate are below $29,000, more than a quarter below the national rate.
12. DeVry University
This college has been the subject of a number of lawsuits filed by disgruntled students over the years. The latest was from alumni who argued the university fraudulently inflated the job prospects graduates could expect if they studied there. They claimed the institution boasted that nine-tenths of graduates attained a job in their field after half a year and that their salaries would be significantly higher than those of their peers.
11. Voorhees College
With fewer than 500 students enrolled, you’d hope that Voorhees College in South Carolina has the ability to ensure this small student body is well positioned for the future. That doesn’t seem to be the case, though, with College Factual noting the average salary of a graduate as below $25,000, almost 40 percent lower than the national average. It also graduates less than one-quarter of its students within four years. These are not good numbers.
10. Talladega College
According to College Factual, there are only 65 worse schools in the nation than Talladega College, out of 1,715 institutions. And only two of them are in its native Alabama. Graduates have an average starting salary of below $22,000, 45 percent lower than the national average, and nearly a quarter of students default on their loans, which is way above than the U.S. average of 10 percent. Overall, then, it’s a bleak picture for the working life of a Talladega graduate.
9. Maine College of Art
Pursuing art has seldom been known as a ticket to financial success, although it can definitely lead to creative fulfillment. Fittingly, graduates of the Maine College of Art can expect a starting salary of a little over $27,000, which is 30 percent less than the national average. Perhaps it is telling that fewer than a quarter of the faculty at the school teach full-time, less than half the U.S. average. But, of course, it’s hard to land a full-time gig with an art degree.
8. Miles College
A running theme of the Rate My Professors reviews for Miles College in Alabama is “life is what you make of it.” While some students have complained about the old facilities, prison-like dorms and its location in the dull town of Fairfield, others have said that the professors are always there to help you. Sadly, though, with a PayScale estimated return on investment of minus $164,600 for graduates, we’re not that trying to make the best of it is worth your while.
7. Mississippi Valley State University
Mississippi Valley State University has produced a remarkable number of NFL players over the years, including Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deacon Jones. But unless you become a pro athlete, it looks like a source of financial ruin for most graduates, with an estimated return on investment of minus $174,800 over 20 years. Perhaps unsurprisingly, close to a quarter of students default on their loans, which is more than double the national average.
6. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
This Eastern New York college promises a commitment to freedom of expression, but over the years has demonstrated the opposite on several occasions. In 2018 local newspaper Times Union wrote that the school had “some soul-searching to do when it comes to quashing student speech it disagrees with.” This was only a few years after it stopped students protesting the Iraq War, even building a barrier to ensure demonstrators couldn’t get near a fundraiser the school was holding.
5. Black Hills State University
College Factual reckons there’s only one school in South Dakota worse than Black Hills State University, which has an on-time graduation rate of only 16 percent. It’s a pity, because the location of the school is superb for outdoor activities, with one Rate My Professors review stating, “Lots of cool adventures to be had in the hills.” But that same review also claimed the professors were terrible, the town was dull, and the tuition was overpriced.
4. Nazarene Bible College
According to Univ Stats, there’s one professor for every six students at Colorado Springs’ Nazarene Bible College. That surely means a remarkably close connection between teachers and their students. Unfortunately, though, given that a philosophy degree won’t get you too far in the business world, most graduates of the school end up making less than $30,000 per year. That’s a quarter below than the national average.
3. The Art Institute of Atlanta
Going by College Factual, there are only six universities in the U.S. that are worse than The Art Institute of Atlanta. It has a graduation rate of 17 percent, which makes sense considering only 26 percent of students stay at the school after their freshman year. Oh, and a Rate My Professors review claimed, “75 percent of my professors left prior to my graduation due to the poor conditions of the facility and the governing faculty.”
2. Georgetown University
Washington, D.C.,’s Georgetown University is ranked by College Factual as the 55th best school in the nation. Why’s it on this list, then? Well, it’s a free speech issue stemming from the school’s decision to prevent student Alexander Atkins from setting up a campaign table for then-Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in 2015. It claimed the reason was that the IRS prevents tax-exempt institutions showing support for one candidate, but they later altered their policy after Atkins testified to the U.S. House of Representatives.
1. Stratford University
With College Factual saying there are only two universities in Virginia worse than Stratford, and an overall nationwide ranking of 1,636th out of 1,715, it’s no wonder the school has made this list. It has a student loan default rate of close to 20 percent, which is almost double the national average. Oh, and only one-fifth of the students who go there move on from freshman to sophomore status. Yikes.