The Worst Universities and Colleges in the Nation

Students in the nation are enrolling in schools where they are unlikely to graduate, even after 6 years. Is there a solution in sight?

This time each year, college rankings are in and schools like Yale, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania top the list as the best universities in the nation. In response to those college rankings, other organizations have compiled research data of their own and ranked schools accordingly.

At the website, the conservative group, ACTA (American Council of Trustees and Alumni), gives D’s and F’s to Harvard, Yale, Rhodes, Cornell, UCAL-Berkeley and other elite private institutions because the schools don’t teach students what ACTA feels are fundamental courses that a student needs to thrive in the real world. ACTA believes students should take 6 out 7 courses in composition, literature, natural or physical science, economics, U.S. government or history, intermediate foreign language, and mathematics. Yet, more than 60 percent of the nation's 7,000 higher education institutions do not meet ACTA’s ideals.

Education Trust released its report on the comparative successes of black and white students in universities across the nation and found that on average, black students graduate at a rate 20 percent less than whites. Deeper investigation revealed that schools where black and white students have strikingly similar graduation rates-- like Houston’s Rice University and South Carolina’s Winthrop University--are schools committed to overall student achievement, regardless of race.

The most disturbing list of data on the nation’s colleges and universities comes courtesy of the Washington Monthly, a D.C. publication that has compiled a list of higher ed institutions with the worst 6-year graduation rates imaginable. The list is accompanied by a story titled “College Dropout Factories.”

The worst ten schools in the nation because of their six year graduation rates are:

1. Southern University at New Orleans, La. 4.98 percent.
2. Allen University, S.C. 6.09
3. Martin University, Ind. 6.67
4. Bellevue University, Neb. 6.99
5. Calumet College of Saint Joseph, Ind. 7.4
6. Baker College of Auburn Hills, Mich. 7.14
7. University of the District of Columbia
8. East-West Universit
9. Haskell Indian Nations University (KS)
10. Crichton College (TN)

Typically, schools with 6-year graduation rates in the 17 percent range and lower are schools with open enrollment, meaning students are not required to take the SAT or ACT before gaining admission. But these schools often require students to take core courses in composition, literature, econ or any of those 7 subjects that ACTA deems essential to a college education.

Ironically, those very same fundamental classes in econ or composition are often studies unrelated to a student’s specific interests and consequently, many students fail those classes. The failure disqualifies any grant and scholarship money for the upcoming semester. The student withdraws and the end result is low retention and poor graduation rates.

And while the report's low numbers are troublesome, unable students and uncaring faculty are not the sole cause of failures at universities like those in the top ten worst list. Researchers have found over and again that schools with a focused commitment to student success achieve higher retention and graduation results.

Schools that lack such focus and commitment end up on lists like those compiled by the Washington Monthly.


Submitted by Visible School (not verified) on
Visible School is incorrectly listed. Visible School's overall graduation rate is 72% as reported on IPEDS Data Center. This is easily referenced by looking in the "Graduation Rates" section of our profile on IPEDS, and the authors did not look deep enough into the numbers during their research. I can only imagine there are many other colleges on this list that should not be there considering what we found. The 8% graduation rate attributed to Visible School is wholly misleading. This graduation rate is for the 2002 cohort and includes the members of that cohort who had completed their bachelor degree by 2008. Our school was founded in 2000, and did not offer bachelor degrees until 2005. The 2002 cohort boasted a whopping graduation rate of 93% for the 1-year certificate, which was our only offering at that time. Three of those students, who had already graduated with the 1-year certificate, chose to come back and complete the bachelor degree in 2005, the first year of its offering. It is this dynamic which created the deceptive 8% graduation rate for the 2002 cohort. According to Ben Miller himself, they “considered only four-year degree institutions.” Visible School’s bachelor’s offering is a three-year degree program, thus skewing numbers further. Visible School is a small institution that is dedicated to doing college right: it has an unheard of 4:1 staff to student ratio, excellent academic advising, tutoring, and probation support services, and an integrated student development and academic plan which fully equips its students for success in college and beyond. Visible School is a reputable college, not only in Memphis but both nationally and internationally, giving its students a launch pad to pursue careers in the field of music and worship leadership – with an incredible roster of successes - and, an article of this nature (or a report like this) can be detrimental to continued success. The fact that it is based upon inaccuracies warrants an immediate correction, which we have requested of the article’s authors.

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