College Decisions: The Worst Educational Investments

by David Luther
College Grad Jobs, Rankings - 3 years ago

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The latest Higher Education Research Institute freshmen study shows that 82 percent of incoming students selected being “very well off financially” as essential or very important to their college choice — and it had better be, as the national student default rate rose to 11.3 percent.

In today’s job market, a college education is an almost mandatory investment. It’s typically not a risky one, and in most cases it pays off — but just as not all schools are equal in how much of a return they provide, some schools are particularly risky choices.

And while a college’s median salaries and employment rates serve as excellent benchmarks for success, just as important is the darker side — the probability that graduates will fail and be stuck with an enormous burden… one that weighs about four years and $150,000, on average.

To help shine a light on the riskiest educational investments, in addition to the map at the top of this article, we at Zippia we’ve put together a list of the four-year programs in each state that you should be wariest of.

If you were wondering about the safest investments in your future we’ve got that too — but here are the ten Most Financially Risky Colleges, with the full list at the bottom of this page:

  1. South College at Asheville — North Carolina
  2. Allen University — South Carolina
  3. Concordia College — Alabama
  4. East-West University — Illinois
  5. Martin University — Indiana
  6. Wiley College — Texas
  7. Broadview University — Utah
  8. Central State University — Ohio
  9. Martin Methodist College — Tennessee
  10. Rust College — Mississippi

Get a job that keeps you out of loan default
We analyzed millions of resumes to determine what jobs people with your degree are most likely to land right out of college and how they pay — search by geographical area or desired field.

How we determined the most secure college investments

Looking at a college education as an investment, we used several factors to come up with a ranking index: how much each school costs, what the risk is, and how easy it is to pay it back.

We used Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to determine how much the schools cost to attend — which is the cost of the investment. To approximate the risk of taking out loans to finance this venture, we took Department of Education data on school default rates.

And finally, we used CollegeScoreCard data to gauge the median salary at six years — this is the most critical payment success period. We assigned values to these metrics to select the Most Financially Risky Colleges in each state. Then we ranked each state’s school according to their rating.

1. North Carolina


College: South College
City: Asheville, NC
Default Rate: 27.9 percent
This satellite campus of a larger one in Tennessee is a prime example of a weak college trifecta: a high default rate bordering on losing its Title IV funding, high tuition, and a low salary. Considering that one of its touted programs is the typically lucrative allied health, this doesn’t bode well for graduates.

2. South Carolina


College: Allen University
City: Columbia, SC
Default Rate: 28.9 percent
Not to be confused with Allen College, which is actually a phenomenally sound investment, Allen University also had a six percent graduation rate in 2010 and one of the lowest salaries on this list.

3. Alabama


College: Concordia College
City: Selma, AL
Default Rate: 31 percent
Its second lowest salary on this list explains, in part, its dubious honor of second highest default rate… maintaining a rate over 30 percent for three years will lead to loss of eligibility for federal student loans and grants. It got accreditation in 1994, but that might not last for too long.

4. Illinois


College: East-West University
City: Chicago, IL
Default Rate: 14.5 percent
In 2013, East-West had the second lowest average student loan debt per graduate in America — which makes one wonder why the default rate is well above the national average.

5. Indiana


College: Martin University
City: Indianapolis, IN
Default Rate: 21.3 percent
Martin University employs a learning method known as andragogy, as opposed to pedagogy, where it involves adult learners in the learning process, encouraging them to bring their life and work experiences into classroom discussions.

Maybe it shouldn’t.

6. Texas


College: Wiley College
City: Marshall, TX
Default Rate: 29.2 percent
About 96 percent of students of the students at this open admission college receive some financial aid, but the school still boasts a sky-high default rate.

The debate team was featured in the Denzel Washington movie The Great Debaters — but the school lacks a history department and the movie apparently did as well, since the school they beat was actually USC, not Harvard.

7. Utah


College: Broadview University
City: West Jordan, UT
Default Rate: 20 percent
Broadview University was founded in 1977, began offering bachelor’s degrees in 2005, and its accreditor lost its accreditation when the Department of Education de-recognized it in 2016.

8. Ohio


College: Central State University
City: Wilberforce, OH
Default Rate: 29.5 percent
With the most exceedingly vague name of any college ever, the $19,100 salary is the worst on this list of pretty terrible salaries. And hey Trump fans, protege Omarosa from The Apprentice is an alumnus — come to think of it, even Trump University may have performed better.

9. Tennessee


College: Martin Methodist College
City: Pulaski, TN
Default Rate: 19.4 percent
Martin Methodist has a 19.4 percent default rate, $23,200 a year tuition costs, a 43 percent graduation rate, and a 5’9″ former basketball player who won the 2012 Slam Dunk contest.

10. Mississippi


College: Rust College
City: Holly Springs, MS
Default Rate: 21.3 percent
Another interesting set of Rust College percentages: 73 percent of its students have GPAs under 3.0 and only 57 percent of freshmen return for their sophomore year.

Some of the takeaways

The Department of Education began tracking individual schools loan default rates in an effort to measure quality outcomes of federal loan programs.

And these institutions care about Big Brother watching, because if a school has a cohort default rate over 30 percent for three years or 40 percent for one year, it loses eligibility to participate in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL), Direct Loan, and Federal Pell Grant Programs for the year.

One of the most important things to today’s college freshmen is that the college they choose will help them get a good job — but the most important thing is that the college experience will at least not leave them crushed by a mountain of debt and bad credit — check graduation rates and accreditation.

Get a job that keeps you out of loan default
We analyzed millions of resumes to determine what jobs people with your degree are most likely to land right out of college and how they pay — search by geographical area or desired field.

Most Financially Risky Colleges

As a note, the University of Wyoming is in this list by default… there are so few colleges in Wyoming that it’s also the most financially secure college as well.

Rank State College Loan Default Rate 6 Year Salary Tuition
1 NC South College Asheville 27.90% 21,400 19425
2 SC Allen University 28.90% 21,100 13140
3 AL Concordia College Alabama 31.00% 19,900 10,320
4 IL East-West University 14.50% 23,000 20145
5 IN Martin University 21.30% 21,200 12536
6 TX Wiley College 29.20% 25,500 11828
7 UT Broadview University 20.00% 24,700 13500
8 OH Central State University 29.50% 19,100 6246
9 TN Martin Methodist College 19.40% 28,800 23200
10 MS Rust College 21.30% 22,700 9500
11 OR Pioneer Pacific College 15.50% 27,400 13972
12 AR University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff 25.70% 27,200 9403
13 ME University of Maine at Augusta 18.70% 27,300 12068
14 CA Charter College 17.70% 28,600 17336
15 WV WVU Parkersburg 22.80% 27,300 8995
16 KS Central Christian College of Kansas 22.40% 31,600 14501
17 NM Northern New Mexico College 24.60% 27,500 8430
18 OK Langston University 28.30% 28,400 8706
19 MN Globe University 18.70% 29,100 14040
20 KY Kentucky State University 17.60% 28,400 12905
21 MO Harris-Stowe State University 27.70% 28,200 7536
22 PA Cheyney 27.00% 29,500 11753
23 NY Globe Institute of Technology 25.60% 28,900 11120
24 FL Florida Gateway College 24.10% 28,000 7423
25 LA Grambling State University 17.70% 28,400 11642
26 GA Bainbridge 18.60% 24,300 6264
27 SD National American University 23.40% 36,100 13647
28 WA Peninsula College 24.30% 27,500 4391
29 VT Saint Joseph 13.60% 34,700 21900
30 AZ Arizona College 22.30% 39,100 16951
31 NJ Bloomfield College 13.60% 36,100 27800
32 VA Virginia University of Lynchburg 35.50% 32,600 7880
33 MA Benjamin Franklin Institute of Tech 19.80% 37,900 16950
34 NV Western Nevada College 20.90% 28,000 6127
35 DE Wesley College 18.80% 41,600 25052
36 IA Hamilton Tech 19.90% 35,200 12165
37 HI University of Hawaii at Maui 30.00% 29,400 5502
38 MI Jackson College 21.60% 28,800 5976
39 CT Post University 14.10% 38,600 16510
40 ID Lewis-Clark State 12.00% 33,000 12724
41 CO Colorado Mountain College 15.00% 28,400 5948
42 RI Rhode Island College 6.50% 39,100 14027
43 NH Granite State University 14.60% 32,200 7641
44 MD Coppin State University 14.50% 35,700 10108
45 MT Montana Tech 13.40% 40,600 13055
46 AK University of Alaska at Fairbanks 12.00% 36,200 11488
47 WI Herzing University 11.70% 42,300 13090
48 NE Peru State College 10.30% 34,300 6816
49 ND Mayville State University 10.80% 35,600 7612
50 WY University of Wyoming 4.20% 40,200 10262
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