Going to college is really necessary if you want to work in some fields, but often it doesn’t pay to go to certain schools. Based on the tuition fee, the return on investment is in the negative for many of these, even 20 years after joining the workforce, according to research done by PayScale. Check out what colleges are simply not worth the money!
Columbia International University – Columbia, South Carolina
You might think Columbia International University is in New York, but that’s just Columbia University. While the $133,000 for a four-year degree is much less than what you’d pay to study at the other Columbia, you aren’t expected to make nearly as much as you would after graduating from the Ivy League school.
Located in Columbia, South Carolina, PayScale has the return on investment at -$115,700. It’s a small, multi-denominational Christian school of only 620 undergraduates.
Mississippi Valley State University – Itta Bena, Mississippi
Mississippi Valley State University is known for both its football team and marching band that are recognized nationally. Jerry Rice, one of the greatest NFL wide receivers ever, went to school here, for example. That being said, not everyone can do the things that Jerry Rice can, and that’s why he got paid so much.
He had a 20-year return on investment of millions, yet students shouldn’t expect a similar outcome. After dishing out $75,700 for a four-year degree, the 20-year return is -$174,800.
Wilson College – Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
Wilson College is located on 300 acres in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. For over 144 years it was a women’s liberal arts college that was the first in the U.S. that began thanks to an endowment by a woman, Sarah Wilson.
Since 2013, they have been accepting men, too, but why would anyone want to study there when the 20-year average return on investment is -$86,700? A four-year education sets you back $156,000 from this school, but only 39% graduate in that time.
St. Andrews University – Laurinburg, North Carolina
St. Andrews University costs $167,000 for four years. That’s a lot of money, but at least the student-faculty ratio is 12 to one. The town of Laurinburg, North Carolina, is quaint and seems to be very conducive to higher learning.
Despite this, don’t expect to come out of this school making millions of dollars with your diploma. After 20 years, the return on investment is -$98,800. On the plus side, they’ve been offering Master’s degrees in business administration since 2013, so hopefully some of these graduates will redeem the school slightly.
Stillman College – Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is a small school of only some 615 students who are drawn to an intimate setting in a town dominated by the University of Alabama. Students get the best of both worlds as they can go to UA parties for a big-school feel.
With a tuition of $98,700 over four years and a graduation rate of just 23%, you’re likely to spend well over six figures, all the while the 20-year return on investment is -$80,400.
Unity College – Unity, Maine
Many people want to make sure the years they spend at college are spent making a positive impact on the planet, and Unity College in Unity, Maine, offers that to many students. Students get an education emphasizing sustainability when they study environmental studies.
What the school doesn’t offer, however, is an education that translates into high-paying jobs in the workforce. A 20-year return on investment, according to PayScale, is $-82,100. The 54% graduation rate is better than half, but a four-year degree costs $151,000.
Rust College – Holly Springs, Mississippi
Rust College only accepts 43% of applicants, as there are many more applicants than can be admitted in the small, 800-student school. It’s a historically black college in Holly Springs, Mississippi, that’s still in operation and the second-oldest private college in the state.
It’s also extremely cheap, with tuition and fees amounting to less than $10,000 a year (a bargain in the U.S.) However low the tuition is, with a four-year degree costing $63,400 including room and board, the return on investment after 20 years is -$97,100. That’s terrible.
Shaw University – Raleigh, North Carolina
Shaw University opened in 1865, and is so prominent a historically black school that it’s been named the “mother of African-American colleges.” It started off training freedmen and grew into the private arts university that we know today.
That’s a really nice name that unfortunately does nothing to mitigate the horrific -$93,600 20-year return on investment. For a college that costs $118,000 for a four-year degree, however nice Raleigh is does nothing to justify that terrible return on investment.
Emory & Henry College – Emory, Virginia
Although its alumni include its share of successful people, Emory & Henry College shouldn’t be mistaken for Emory University, which is in Georgia. Most people simply do not break even after graduating from Emory & Henry.
Emory & Henry graduates pay $179,000 for a four-year degree and have a 54% graduation rate, which compares terribly with the 91% the more famous Emory boasts. The latter institution also has a $452,000 return on investment, and Emory & Henry in Emory, Virginia, has a shameful -$91,300 return after 20 years.
Saint Augustine’s University – Raleigh, North Carolina
Saint Augustine’s motto is “the truth will set you free.” The truth about this Raleigh university, however, is that only 24% of students graduate in four years. Considering that a four-year degree costs $129,000, which is not how long it takes for most people to graduate, the -$77,700 return on investment doesn’t seem justified.
That’s enough to buy a house in a lot of neighborhoods. Less than a thousand students study there, and we hope they got something out of school that makes them feel it was worth the money.
Cazenovia College – Cazenovia, New York
Cazenovia College is close to Syracuse, New York, in a town called Cazenovia. There’s an academic staff of 154, a lot compared to the 915 undergraduates there. That could be the reason why people pay $184,000 for a four-year degree.
It’s a liberal arts school with a great teacher-to-student ratio, but the return on investment is -$98,600. One of its most notable alumni is Leland Stanford, who might have founded Stanford University because he thought he could give students a better return on their investment than his alma mater.
Voorhees College – Denmark, South Carolina
Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina, is located in the central part of the state. There are just over 3,000 people in the town, and 600 of them are students. It’s another historically black school whose education gets great reviews, but warm feelings don’t always translate to full bank accounts.
Only 26% of students graduate within four years, and a four-year degree costs $97,000. The return on investment after 20 years is -$153,400 on average, which makes you wonder what they have going on there that makes people love them so much.
Paine College – Augusta, Georgia
Although it’s got the distinction of training John Wesley Gilbert, the first African-American archaeologist, that was back in 1886. Paine College was de-credited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 2016 and, even though they found another accreditor, it stands to follow that their graduation rate would be as low as 20%.
Living up to the name, students have to pay a painful $97,500 for four years of school. After 20 years, they have a return on investment of -$94,700.
Wheelock College – Boston, Massachusetts
Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts, is one of the many colleges that make Boston such a fun town. It was once known as Miss Wheelock’s Kindergarten Training School, as it was founded by Lucy Wheelock, a descendant of John Adams who became a famous educator.
After merging with Boston University’s School of Education, it was renamed Wheelock College. Teachers really don’t make enough money, though, and they need to spend $201,000 for a four-year degree from Wheelock. After 20 years, there is a -$140,700 return on investment.
Lindsey Wilson College – Columbia, Kentucky
Lindsey Wilson College is another school that simply doesn’t return on its investment. There are a lot of serious athletics going on in the school, at least, and there are several alumni playing professional sports. Their soccer team is one of the most dominant forces in the NAIA, the sports league for smaller schools.
It costs $152,000 to get a degree in four years, something only 34% of students manage to do. The return on investment after spending so much for school is -$160,800, which is really depressing.
Martin Luther College – New Ulm, Minnesota
Martin Luther in Minnesota is the home of one of the most peculiarly active campuses in the U.S. A third of the under 900 students play varsity sports, while two-thirds play intramural sports. That definitely has a lot to do with how happy the students look all the time.
As in shape as the students are while they are in school, they are apparently not that equipped for the real world. Tuition costs $93,300 for four years, but after 20 years there’s -$123,200 return on investment on average.
Johnson University – Kimberlin Heights, Tennessee
Johnson University in Tennessee is a Christian school just 12 miles away from Knoxville in a town called Kimberlin Heights. It’s a charming place to put a private school, and the whole town appears filled with team spirit supporting the Johnson University Royals.
Chances are only slightly more likely you’ll graduate on time, but the return on investment for the $89,800 that it costs you to study there for four years doesn’t add up according to PayScale. After 20 years, the return on investment is -$97,900.
Claflin University – Orangeburg, South Carolina
Under 2,000 undergraduates study at Claflin University, which makes it a relatively small educational setting. It’s a historically black college that is in the history books for awarding the first diplomas in the U.S. to a black woman when Alice Moorer and Annie Thortne graduated in 1884.
The college’s contributions to humanity have been far less impressive lately, even though over half of the students graduate after four years. Tuition is $128,000, but expect to see a return on investment of -$133,900 20 years after you receive your diploma.
Benedict College – Columbia, South Carolina
Benedict College is a liberal arts school that was founded in 1870 as a teacher’s school in Columbia, South Carolina. Over 2,000 undergraduate students go to school there, paying $124,000 for a four-year degree. That being said, only 22% can expect to graduate in that amount of time.
You’d think that they’d be able to teach their students useful skills for the outside world considering their long history in education. Unfortunately, the 20-year return on investment stands at -$76,800.
Campbellsville University – Campbellsville, Kentucky
Campbellsville University is next to Green Lake, a manmade reservoir in Kentucky that allows students to study in the middle of nature. It has a satellite campus in Hodgenville, a town in the same state that has the distinction of housing the cabin where Abraham Lincoln was born.
As for the university, it includes colleges of music, education, and art, but sadly none of those professions really offer that much money. The tuition is $143,000 for four years, and the return on investment after 20 years is -$76,800.
Talladega College – Talladega, Alabama
Talladega College costs $88,200 for a four-year degree, and some 43% can expect to graduate in that time. It’s a historically black college established on a building meant to be a Baptist academy. Postbellum, it was purchased and charted by the governor.
It’s famous for its marching band, the Talladega College Tornado Marching Band, which competes nationally. Despite this distinction, the return on investment 20 years after graduating is -$156,900.
Miles College – Fairfield, Alabama
Despite Charles Barkley having donated $1 million to the school in January 2020, which was the most ever given to the school, the 1,500 students studying there shouldn’t expect the most lucrative futures. One of the worst returns on investment can be expected after going to Miles College in Fairfield, Alabama, according to PayScale.
It costs $90,200 for a four-year degree, but only 17% end up finishing in four years. A full 20 years after graduating, you can expect a return on investment of -$164,600.
University of Montevallo – Montevallo, Alabama
Montevallo, Alabama, is home to a university that takes its name from the town. It’s a public liberal arts school that is ranked high on the U.S. News & World Report’s list of public schools in the state. The campus is beautiful and is characterized by antebellum architecture.
There’s even a yearly Life Raft Debate, which is where every professor must argue why their skill set is more valuable than that of their peers. While tuition for in-state students is $48,360, out-of-state students are required to shell out $100,440!
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma – Chickasha, Oklahoma
The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma is a public school in Oklahoma that costs just over $6,000 a year. It’s considered one of the best in-state deals as the education isn’t bad at all. Even though that’s still no small amount, it’s nothing compared to the whopping $99,700 out-of-state students pay to go there.
After 20 years, that makes the return on investment -$65,500, so it might be best to look for your own state for good deals on public schools.
Morris College – Sumter, South Carolina
Morris College is in Sumter, South Carolina, which shouldn’t be confused with Fort Sumter, located in the same state. It’s another historically black college, many of which appear on this list, unfortunately. For a town of only some 40,000 people, many of them are students.
Joining the 551 students at Morris are students from several other institutions that have campuses in Sumter. Four years at the college costs $92,200. The 20-year return on investment from Morris is -$106,800.
The University of Montana Western – Dillon, Montana
The University of Montana Western, as it’s currently called, is located in Dillon, Montana. It used to be called the Montana State Normal school and was formed to train teachers. Later, its name changed to Western Montana College of the University of Montana, and then again to its current name in 2000 on becoming part of the Montana University system.
Some 1,500 students study here, 46% of which can expect to graduate within four years after paying $109,000. The 20-year return on investment is -$71,400, which doesn’t justify the price tag.
Maine College of Art – Portland, Maine
Maine College of Art is also shortened to MECA, and for many New England students this is a Mecca of art expression and learning. That comes at a steep cost, though, with a four-year degree costing $184,000.
That’s astronomical! If you go to school here, don’t expect to use your art degree to make a lot of money, as the return on investment is -$163,600. They claim their “educate artists for life,” but evidently that doesn’t include how to integrate into the workforce.
Brewton-Parker College – Mount Vernon, Georgia
Brewton-Parker offers students a small, intimate education experience in the quiet town of Mount Vernon, Georgia. Out of 2,451 people who live in the town, some 1,119 of them are students at the college. Although many students will be attracted to being so connected with the townies, this comes at a serious sacrifice.
A four-year education costs $113,000, but only 17% actually graduate in time. The 20-year net return on investment is -$92,200 all in all, which is abysmal.
University of South Carolina Aiken – Aiken, South Carolina
The University of South Carolina Aiken, located in Aiken, South Carolina, is part of the University of South Carolina system. Over the past few years, it’s made a name for itself as the fastest-growing of these schools, which are by nature cheaper for students studying in-state.
For out-of-state students, though, the four-year tuition is a whopping $130,000. After 20 years, the return on investment for these students is only -$66,000, which is hardly enough to justify going to school far away from your parents.