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20 US Universities That Just Aren't Worth The Tuition

A college diploma comes at a cost, including the hours of studying and tuition. Every year, Payscale compiles a list of the values of colleges in the US, calculating tuition costs, graduation rates, and returns on investments. Here're 20 colleges with the worst returns on investment.

1. Saint Augustine's University - Return on Investment: -$77,700

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Located in Raleigh, North Carolina, Saint Augustine's University has a motto that reads "the truth will set you free." But when it comes to the returns on investment, the truth is hard to swallow. With a total enrollment of just 974 students, the school requires $129,000 for each student for four years, but only 23% of them graduate. Most of those graduates see a small return for their investment, and are left with a diploma and a mountain of debt.

2. Stillman College - Return on Investment: -$80,400

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Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, had only 615 students enrolled in 2018. It's understandable as coming after a Stillman College diploma is a small return on investment. Students pay $98,700 for four years of school, but over a 20-year span, the net return on investment as calculated by Payscale amounts to -$80,400, let alone the college's low graduation rate of only about 23%.

3. Unity College - Return on Investment: -$82,100

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The private liberal arts school in Unity, Maine, emphasizes sustainability, environmental studies, and natural resources, but the college might not have the resources to pay back their students' loans. Payscale reports that the 20-year net return on investment is a staggering -$82,100. For the 54% of students who graduate, their education comes with a 4-year cost of $151,000.

4. Emory & Henry College - Return on Investment: -$91,300

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This private liberal arts school in Emory is the oldest in Southwest Virginia. According to Payscale's calculations, at the cost of about $179,000 over four years, the college has a return on investment of a whopping -$91,300. This may help explain why the school only has about a 54% graduation rate.

5. Brewton-Parker College - Return on Investment: -$92,200

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For those who want to attend a small college in a quiet town, Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Georgia, might be a perfect option. The town's entire population is only around 2,451, and about 1,119 of them are Brewton-Parker students. But with a four-year college tuition of $113,000, the school has an incredible net total return on investment of around -$92,200 and a meager graduation rate of only 17%.

6. Shaw University - Return on Investment: -$93,600

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Opened in 1865, Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, has made a name for itself as the first historically black university in the Southern United States. Although Shaw is lovingly referred to as the "mother of African-American colleges," sometimes a mother's love can come with a price. For Shaw University students, that price is college tuition of about $118,000 over four years. Eventually, all that love might not even pay off. Payscale found that the school's average return on investment is about -$93,600.

7. Paine College - Return on Investment: -$94,700 

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The private Methodist school in Augusta, Georgia, has recently been challenged in court that Paine College should lose its regional accreditation after some financial issues, but that is not the only pain the school is experiencing. According to Payscale, Paine College students pay $97,500 for a four-year tuition but only receive a -$94,700 return on investment after 20 years. The college's graduation rate also stands at an alarming 20%.

8. Rust College - Return on Investment: -$97,100

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Rust College in Holly Springs has an average acceptance rate of about 43%. The school enjoys a long tradition as the second-oldest private school in Mississippi and one of only ten historically black colleges and universities that are still operating, but its students seem to be joining a long line of college debt. For the $63,400 that it costs to attend the college, Rust students usually have roughly -$97,100 return on investment over 20 years.

9. Cazenovia College - Return on Investment: -$98,600

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Located in the greater Syracuse area in Upstate New York, Cazenovia College is a perfect option for students who are looking for a small, liberal arts education with a small town feel. With only 915 students, the college touts its ability to work one-on-one to help students succeed in the real world. Unfortunately, the school comes with a pretty sizable price tag. Cazenovia students shell out about $184,000 for four years. Eventually, they only see an average return on investment of about -$98,600.

10. St. Andrew's University - Return on Investment: -$98,800

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For those who are seeking a picturesque college campus in a small town, look no further than St. Andrew's University, located in Laurinburg, North Carolina. The school boasts of a campus that holds a beautiful lake running right down the middle. But even with an idyllic campus, the university does not always leave their students ready for battling in the post-graduate world. The $167,000 in four-year college tuition leaves alumni with around a -$98,800 return on investment over 20 years. It simply is not a pretty picture.

11. Morris College - Return on Investment: -$106,800

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Since its founding in 1908, Morris College in Sumter, South Carolina has held the motto "Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve." However, Morris College education seems not to serve the students so well upon their departure. Morris College students usually pay about $92,200 for four years of school, but that investment has not paid off for many former students. Payscale says that the 20-year return on investment is -$106,800.

12. Montserrat College of Art - Return on Investment: -$107,400

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Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Massachusetts, advertises the motto "Where Creativity Works," but many students who enter the workforce find themselves unable to match what they spend on their education. While 56% of students graduate from art school after paying $169,000 in 4-6 years, their return on investment is usually a whopping -$107,400.

13. Columbia International University - Return on Investment: -$115,700

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Not to be mistaken with the Ivy League Columbia University in New York, Columbia International University located in Columbia, South Carolina, is a private Christian college founded in 1923. This school has also achieved a bad grade from Payscale's ranking system. Students can expect to pay $133,000 for four years of school, followed by a dismal return on investment of about -$115,700.

14. Martin Luther College - Return on Investment: -$123,200

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Located in New Ulm, Minnesota, Martin Luther College has attracted students throughout the country for offering a more athletic vibe on their Minnesota Riverside campus, but that does not mean that college has been able to stay in tip-top shape when it comes to Payscale's assessment. For $93,300 paid over 4 years of schooling, students usually see a -$123,200 return on investment 20 years later.

15. Claflin University - Return on Investment: -$133,900

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In 1884, this historically black university in Orangeburg, South Carolina, made history for awarding Alice Jackson Moorer and Annie Thorne diplomas, making them two of the first black women in the US to graduate from college. But over the years, Claflin University has not exactly held up that reputation. While a solid 56% of students graduate after spending about $128,000 for 4 years of schooling, they see about a -$133,900 return on investment after 20 years.

16. Wheelock College - Return on Investment: -$140,700

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This college in Boston, Massachusetts, was originally named Miss Wheelock's Kindergarten Training School. It was renamed Wheelock College after a merger with Boston University's School of Education. The school now focuses on all levels of education studies. It landed itself on this list because of its triple-digit-negative return on investment. For the huge cost of $201,000 for four years, students usually see a -$140,700 return on investment 20 years later.

17. Lindsey Wilson College - Return on Investment: -$160,800

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This private school in Columbia, Kentucky, brands itself as being a school for the more athletic students. With its huge array of sports teams and championship trophies, it's no surprise that alumni from Lindsey Wilson include a handful of current pro soccer players and cyclists. But not every Lindsey Wilson student can expect such success after graduation. The college has a graduation rate of about 34% and asks students to pay about $152,000 for a 4-year schooling. In the end, the return on investment is just -$160,800.

18. Maine College of Art - Return on Investment: -$163,600

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For students who are looking forward to studying fine arts and studio art at a higher level, the search ends with Maine College of Art, aka MECA, located in Portland, Maine. The school promises to "educate artists for life," but it is not exactly setting its students up for a monetarily successful future. Students who pay about $184,000 for their art education usually see a return on investment of about -$163,600.

19. Miles College - Return on Investment: -$164,600

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Miles College, a historically black liberal arts college in Fairfield, Alabama, is the runner up on this list. For the Miles College Golden Bears, this might be a competition where they do not want to get the gold medal. The college has a shockingly low graduation rate of roughly 17%. But for those few who do make it to graduation and cough up the $90,200 in college costs, they usually see a pretty startlingly negative return on their investment of -$164,600.

20. Mississippi Valley State University - Return on Investment: -$174,800

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Anyone who has heard of Mississippi Valley State University is probably well-acquainted with its pretty successful football team or marching band. Over the years, "The Valley" has produced a handful of professional football players, and some of them have moved on to be honored in the professional football hall of fame. Unfortunately, MVSU has been rewarded with the top spot on this list. According to Payscale, MVSU students spend about $75,700 for tuition over four years, and see a return on investment of about -$174,800. Someone please play us a sad trombone.

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