The Daily Caller has already provided the epoch-making list of the best colleges in America for 2015 when you consider absolutely everything that matters. (RELATED: The 53 Best Colleges In America PERIOD)
Now, it’s once again time for the world to know about the worst colleges in America. Period.
The one — large — caveat about the colleges and universities on this list is that they certainly aren’t the lousiest schools from a purely academic standpoint. You are highly likely to find lesser-caliber coursework at the community college in your town, for example, or at obscure public universities with two or more cardinal directions in their names.
These schools are not community colleges or directional schools, though. They are, in fact, national and notable.
The schools on this list are here because they are the polar opposites of the 53 schools on TheDC’s list of the best colleges. They tend to score low in several of the 10 overall categories.
A few are here because students regard the academics as mediocre, for example, or because the schools can’t seem to graduate students in four years, or because they’ll admit pretty much anyone with a pulse.
While some of these schools are relatively affordable, others are ridiculously expensive. The cost of a college education in the United States today is utterly out of hand. Colleges and universities have bloated their administrative staffs with entirely too many useless bureaucrats. They have built palatial dorms and gleaming athletic facilities — passing the cost right along to you, the education consumer. As a result, America’s college graduates are in debt to America’s bankers to the tune of $1.2 trillion.
Many of the schools on this list have landed here because the social life is dreadful. The ability to have a good time around cool people is critical. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. College has become a four-year (or five-year, of six-year) party. You may as well join the fun. And you should consider the local quality of life. If there’s nothing to do but go to Walmart or you are likely to get mugged, that matters.
A majority of the colleges and universities here — almost 60 percent — are located in just five populous, highly bureaucratic states. Pennsylvania and Massachusetts have two schools. New Jersey and Illinois have three. Amazingly, New York contains nine.
At the same time, half a dozen schools on the list are public universities in big, square, Western states where ruggedness and rural life predominate.
Note also that several schools here — almost 30 percent — generally emphasize science and engineering. That’s no coincidence. Students at engineering schools are notoriously unhappy with their heavy workloads and sometimes frustrated with their social lives. If they are unhappy, the odds are you’ll also be unhappy.
Of course, graduates of science and engineering schools tend to obtain science and engineering degrees. At that point, they often end up considerably happier and wealthier than, say, some anthropology major at a liberal arts college. Building bridges beats working at Starbucks by most objective measures. But that’s after — not during — school.
This year’s list also captures return on investment, which is another big deal. You want to get a job when you get out of college, and you want to have a successful career that pays the bills and makes you happy. Return on investment is especially important to consider given the perpetually sluggish economy and weak job market. It’s a problem now. It could very well be a problem a few years from now.
The schools on this year’s worst colleges list are all over the place on return on investment as TheDC has measured it. Some are impressive. Others are not. There is no clear theme.
The full list is below. Just scroll down, or take a minute to read about the various parts of the list first.
Overall, there are no fewer than 10 categories. For academics, there is an overall academic rating, a professor-quality rating and a rating for the school’s ability to graduate freshmen in four years (a good thing). There’s also an admission rating. The harder the school is to get into, the higher this rating is.
Beyond academics, there is a social life rating, a student-attractiveness rating, and — new for 2015 — separate ratings for the campus and for the surrounding area. An idyllic, perfectly collegiate campus can be in the middle of nowhere. A dump of a campus can be located in a great place.
There is, of course, a rating for the cost of tuition and fees, which can really vary from school to school, and which can really affect your life later on if you take on a bunch of debt. (Please don’t.)
New for this year is a score for return on investment. For various reasons, there are certain schools that are a golden ticket for the rest of your life. That may be sad and wrong and emblematic of a caste system, but it’s true.
Finally, in a bonus category, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) provides a database tracking the frequently draconian speech policies at colleges and universities across the country. Fewer than two dozen receive a “green light” rating, meaning that the administration does not seriously imperil free speech on campus.
Exactly none of the 32 schools on this list has received a green-light rating from FIRE.
For each of well over 350 colleges and universities, TheDC has given each one a score in each category. The scores range between 4.00 and 0.00 — just like a typical grade-point average.
In the list below, these ratings are rounded to the nearest half and presented as star ratings.
For each school’s grand total, TheDC just added up each raw score. Drexel University is thus the worst school in the land for 2015, with a measly total raw score of just 19.30 — just over half the score for the best school in the land: the University of Virginia (37.40).
There’s more about how the list are formulated if you scroll past the list itself.
THE “TOP” 10
The rating for the cost of tuition and fees assumes in-state tuition for public schools. As you certainly know, if you go to a public school in a state where you can’t claim residency, your tuition price is often astronomically higher. Also, cost does not include room and board, books and spending cash. The theory is that these costs are largely a wash because you have to eat, sleep somewhere and buy books wherever you attend college. Obviously, though, the cost of living in, say, Philadelphia, Pa. is considerably higher than it is in Vermillion, S.D.
For social, life, campus and locale, student hotness and the quality of professors, TheDC has relied heavily on an amalgamation of information at various websites featuring student-generated information about schools. For location and the campus, factual information is also part of the equation.
The overall rating for academics is a composite of student-generated data and hard data.
The data for four-year graduation rates and admission rates is all hard data.
For return on investment, the measurement is a proxy. It’s a combination of the rate of alumni giving and other data.
Interestingly, by the way, the student-generated data appears to be self-inflating over time. Students are giving their professors great marks overall these days, for example. Students also appear to be rating themselves are more and more attractive.
Finally, again, the raw score is the cumulative raw score for a school’s standing in each of the 10 categories. (Note that there are some ties. It happens. The tiebreaker is purely TheDC’s preference.)