The 30 Colleges With the Highest Dropout Rates

College degrees are considered a crucial next step in many students' life as they promise higher-paid careers and everything else this entails.

Yet despite some U.S. educational institutions boasting almost perfect student retention rates, other colleges have high dropout rates.

Bill Staib, the CEO and co-founder of CollegeRaptor.com, the company that crunched the data to compile this rundown of American colleges with the highest dropout rates, believes the first-year retention rate is a "fantastic indicator" of a university's ability to meet students' academic, social and financial needs.

He told Newsweek: "Because colleges with the best retention rates usually also have high graduation rates, excellent academic programs, generous financial aid, and a vibrant campus life, College Raptor's recommendation engine heavily weights retention rate to help students discover a personalized list of great colleges their family can afford.

"By bringing transparency to college search, we help students find great schools and achieve successful lives."

Mr Staib supplied the following methodology he and his team used to obtain this dropout rate data.

College Raptor told Newsweek via email: "All data was obtained from the U.S. Department of Education's IPEDS data center from the two most recent reporting years (2019-2020 and 2018-2019 school year).

"An average of the last two years' retention data was used to determine the schools with the highest and lowest retention rate.

"The retention rate is defined as the percent of the (fall full-time cohort from the prior year minus exclusions from the fall full-time cohort) that re-enrolled at the institution as either full- or part-time in the current year."

The following criteria were also used:

  • Schools must offer at least a bachelor's degree.
  • Schools must be a four year or above institution including public, private for-profit, and private not-for-profit.
  • Schools must have at least 100 total undergraduate students and more than 25 in their freshman cohort.
  • Schools must have an identifiable Carnegie classification that does not indicate a specialty school.

Newsweek presents the U.S. colleges with the highest student dropout rates, expressed by average retention rate (in percent).

=1. American InterContinental University-Atlanta (30% retention rate)

American InterContinental - Dunwoody is a for-profit university based in Sandy Springs, Georgia.

Popular majors at the college include Business, Criminal Justice and Safety Studies, and Healthcare Management.

2. East-West University (31.5%)

East-West is a small-sized private university based in Chicago.

Popular majors include Business, Information Science, and Liberal Arts and Humanities.

3=. American InterContinental University (32%)

The American InterContinental University is a for-profit, mid-sized online college.

Some of the most popular majors at this college include Business, Criminal Justice and Safety Studies, and Healthcare Management.

3=. Trident University International (32%)

Trident University International is a private for-profit online college located in Cypress, California.

Popular majors include Business, Health Service Preparatory Studies, and Liberal Arts and Humanities.

colleges with the highest dropout rates
Newsweek presents the U.S. colleges with the highest student dropout rates, expressed as an average retention rate in percent monkeybusinessimages/Getty Images

5. University of Phoenix-Arizona (35.5%)

The University of Phoenix is a private for-profit college based in Phoenix, Arizona, founded in 1976.

Popular majors at this educational institution with a reported 100 percent admissions rate include Business, Information Technology and Hospital Management.

6. Bacone College (36.5)

Established in 1880, Bacone College is a tribal college in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Popular majors at this small-sized U.S. university include Business, Sport and Fitness Management, and Minority and Ethnic Studies.

7. Holy Cross College (37%)

Founded in 1966, Holy Cross College is a residential institution of higher education based in Notre Dame, Indiana.

Popular majors at this college include Liberal Arts and Humanities, Business, and Communications.

8. Colorado Technical University-Colorado Springs (41.5%)

Founded in 1965, Colorado Technical University is a private college with its main campus in Colorado Springs.

Popular majors include Business, Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration, and Information Technology.

9=. Brewton-Parker College (42%)

Founded in 1904, Brewton–Parker College is a private university in Mount Vernon, Georgia.

Popular majors at the college include Liberal Arts and Humanities, Business Support Services, and Psychology.

9=. Potomac State College of West Virginia University (42%)

Potomac State College is a small-sized public university located in Keyser, West Virginia.

Popular majors at this educational institution include Liberal Arts and Humanities, Agriculture and Education.

11. Grantham University (42.5%)

Grantham University is a private for-profit online university based in Lenexa, Kansas, founded in 1951 as Grantham Radio Licensing School.

The most popular majors at this university include Business, Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration, and Liberal Arts and Humanities.

12=. Missouri Valley College (43%)

Established in 1889, Missouri Valley College is a private liberal arts university based in Marshall, Missouri.

Popular majors at Missouri Valley include Business, Kinesiology and Exercise Science, and Biology.

12=. Southwestern Christian University (43%)

Southwestern Christian University is a private Pentecostal college in Bethany, Oklahoma, founded in 1946.

The most popular majors at this university include Business, Sport and Fitness Management, and Liberal Arts and Humanities.

12=. Wilberforce University (43%)

Wilberforce is a private, small-sized college, with a fairly competitive admissions rate, located in Ohio.

Popular majors at Wilberforce include Business Support Services, Communications, and Political Science and Government.

15. Vincennes University (44%)

Founded in 1801, Vincennes University is a public college with its main campus in Vincennes, Indiana.

Popular majors at this small-sized educational institution include Liberal Arts and Humanities, Robotics and Automation Engineering Technician, and Nursing.

16=. Morris College (45%)

Morris is a private, small-sized college based in Sumter, South Carolina.

Popular majors include Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration, Business and Sociology.

16=. Wayland Baptist University (45%)

Wayland Baptist University is a private, small-sized Baptist college based in Plainview, Texas.

Popular majors at this university include Business, Liberal Arts and Humanities, and Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration.

16=. Wiley College (45%)

Wiley College is a private liberal arts college in Marshall, Texas, established in 1873.

Popular majors include Liberal Arts and Humanities, Non-Profit and Public Management, and Police and Criminal Science.

19=. Colorado Mountain College (45.5%)

Founded in 1965, Colorado Mountain College is a public college with multiple campuses in western Colorado.

Popular majors at this college include Liberal Arts and Humanities, Emergency Medical Technician, and Hospitality and Tourism Management.

19=. The Art Institute of San Antonio (45.5%)

The AI San Antonio is a for-profit, small-sized college based in San Antonio, Texas.

Popular majors at the Art Institute of San Antonio include Restaurant and Food Services Management, Game Design and Interactive Media, and Web Page and Digital Design.

21=. Howard Payne University (46%)

Howard Payne University is a private liberal arts institution based in Brownwood, Texas.

The most popular majors include Business, Elementary Education, and Physical Education Teaching and Coaching.

21=. Lincoln College (46%)

Lincoln is a small, private college located in Illinois with a fairly completive admission rate.

Popular majors at the U.S. university include Business, Liberal Arts and Humanities and Criminal Justice and Safety Studies.

In response to this study, the college said it was "primarily a two-year college with a significant transfer mission" during the timeframe used.

"We began offering four new bachelor's degrees in the fall of 2017 and these programs had small enrollments as they got started," a spokesperson said.

23=. Allen University (46.5%)

AU is a private, small-sized university found in Columbia, South Carolina.

Popular majors at this educational institution with a fairly completive admissions rate, include Social Science Research Methods, Business and Biology.

23=. Crowley's Ridge College (46.5%)

Crowley's Ridge is a private, small-sized college based in Paragould, Arkansas.

Popular majors at Crowley's Ridge include Liberal Arts and Humanities, Sport and Fitness Management and Business.

23=. Gordon State College (46.5%)

Gordon State College is a small-sized public college based in Barnesville, Georgia.

Among the most popular majors at Gordon State include Liberal Arts and Humanities, Nursing and Business.

23=. Rust College (46.5%)

Rust College is a liberal arts college in Holly Springs, Mississippi, founded in 1866.

Popular majors at this educational institution with a fairly competitive admission rate include Biology, Broadcast Journalism, and Kindergarten and Preschool Education.

23=. Salem University (46.5%)

Founded in 1888, Salem is a small-sized, for-profit university found West Virginia.

Some of the most popular majors at Salem include Business, Criminal Justice and Safety Studies, and Information Technology.

26. DeVry University (47%)

DeVry in Illinois is a mid-sized, for-profit educational institution based in Chicago.

Popular majors at this university with a reported acceptance rate is 96 percent, include Business, Medical Records Technician and Computer Systems Analysis.

The college said that it should not be included in this rundown, stating that the source of data is used is "incomplete" and excluded students who transfer to DeVry after first attending one or more other institutions.

=28. ECPI University (47.5%)

The East Coast Polytechnic Institute (ECPI) is a private, higher educational institution based in Virginia Beach.

In response to the study, the college said that the majority of its students complete their program in less than 18 months, and pointed Newsweek to the College Scorecard website that currently gives ECPI University as having a 52 percent graduation rate and 48 percent for "Students Who Return After Their First Year."

"You can't have low student success rates if you are graduating a large percentage of your population each year," a spokesperson said.

=28. Robert Morris University Illinois (47.5%)

Newsweek presents the U.S. colleges with the highest student dropout rates, expressed as an average retention rate in percent.

This institution merged into Roosevelt University in 2020, which formed under it a new Robert Morris Experiential College as one of several colleges at Roosevelt.


Each college named in this article has been contacted for comment.