College Values Online presents our ranking of the best value universities for students with low SAT scores. In our college-centric culture, scoring low on the SATs can be discouraging. It can feel like you’ll never get into a good college. But there are actually many colleges with great statistics and return on investment for students with below average SAT scores. All the schools ranked here have student populations where the bottom 25% of students (for SAT scores) scored well below the national average of 1,100. There are many kinds of schools on this list. From massive state schools to small liberal arts colleges to STEM-focused technical schools. All of the schools ranked here accept more than 80% of applicants. More information about our methodology for scoring and our sources is available at the end of the article.
Ranking the Best Colleges That Accept Low SAT Scores
#10. University of Wisconsin-Platteville
The University of Wisconsin-Platteville considers applicants who graduated in the top 50% of their high school class or achieved a composite score of 1110 on their SAT. Students who graduated in the top 65% of their class but scored 950 on their SAT will also be considered. The University of Wisconsin-Platteville has an undergraduate student population of 7,978 and a student to faculty ratio of 22-1.
Avg. Loan Debt: $27,300
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $409,000
Graduation Rate: 54%
#9. St. Mary’s College of California
The 25% of students at Saint Mary’s with the lowest SATs scored 1016 or lower. Saint Mary’s has an undergraduate student population of 2,940 with an 11-1 student to faculty ratio. Saint Mary’s is ranked as a top 10 university among western regional universities by U.S. News and World Report and top 10 in the country for study abroad programs by the IIE Open Doors Report.
Avg. Loan Debt: $34,400
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $444,000
Graduation Rate: 71%
#8. Penn State
The 25% of students scoring lowest on the SAT at PSU Erie-Behrend scored at or below 940. The school has an undergraduate student population of 4,175 with a 15-1 student to faculty ratio. Undergraduate programs are offered by the university’s schools of business, engineering, humanities and social sciences, and the school of science, which also houses a nursing program.
Avg. Loan Debt: $33,900
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $376,000
Graduation Rate: 69%
#7. Iowa State University
Iowa State University is a massive school with an undergraduate population of 30,034. The SAT scores among the lowest scoring 25% of students at the school are at or below 960 composite. The programs offered at the university are spread across colleges of business, design, engineering, agriculture and life sciences, liberal arts and sciences, veterinary medicine, and human sciences.
Avg. Loan Debt: $27,500
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $368,000
Graduation Rate: 71% (22% Transfer Out Rate)
#6. Montana Tech
Montana Tech does not have a hard cutoff for SAT scores. 25% of students scored at or below a 1050 composite score on the SAT. The undergraduate degrees offered by Montana Tech are nearly all STEM focused and include computer science, network technology, software engineering, statistics, chemistry, and seven other engineering majors. The attached Highlands college offers numerous certificates of applied science and associates degrees.
Avg. Loan Debt: $22,400
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $562,000
Graduation Rate: 38% (30% transfer-out rate)
#5. Grove City College
Grove City, Pennsylvania
At Grove City College, 25% of students scored below 1076 on the SAT. 81% of applicants are accepted, which makes the graduation rate of 85% nothing less than astonishing and by far the best graduation rate among schools ranked here. Grove City is a Christian college and has schools of arts and letters and science, engineering, and mathematics.
Avg. Loan Debt: $42,500
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $374,000
Graduation Rate: 85% (2% Transfer out rate)
#4. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
Rapid City, South Dakota
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology will consider for admission students with an SAT composite score of 1020, but the student must have a high school GPA of at least 2.75. The school offers STEM degrees almost exclusively in areas like industrial engineering, mathematics, metallurgical engineering, computer science, computer engineering, and physics.
Avg. Loan Debt: $29,200
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $641,000
Graduation Rate: 51%
#3. Brigham Young University-Idaho
BYU-Idaho features the most affordable tuition among all the schools ranked here. While the school is Mormon, it is open to non-Mormon students as long as they abide by the school’s code of honor. BYU has a wide selection of degrees spread across their colleges of agriculture and life sciences, business and communication, education and human development, language and letters, physical sciences and engineering, and performing and visual arts.
Avg. Loan Debt: $18,200
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $458,000
Graduation Rate: 61% (15% transfer out rate)
#2. Mount Carmel College of Nursing
This school offers nursing degrees including a four-year bachelor’s, RN-BSN degree, MSN program, and Doctor of Nursing Practice. While this doesn’t give students much variety, the school’s results are fantastic, and this is a great choice for any student who wants to study nursing. Mount Carmel College of Nursing requires the submission of the ACT score, not SAT. 25% of students scored 19 or below on the ACT composite, which is well below the average of 22.
Avg. Loan Debt: $34,100
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $476,000
Graduation Rate: 72%
#1. Missouri University of Science and Technology
Missouri University of Science and Technology admits applicants whose class rank percentile combined with their SAT performance percentile equals 100 or more. This means if you ranked in the top 50% and placed in the top 50% of SAT takers, those numbers combined will be 100 and you are considered for admission. MST is a STEM-focused university and is ranked #164 among national universities by U.S. News.
Avg. Loan Debt: $27,500
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $654,000
Graduation Rate: 65%
Methodology for Ranking Colleges That Accept Low SAT Scores
Each of the four scoring categories awarded points on a scale based on the school’s stats in that category. Explanations of each category and how points were allocated follow.
20 Year Net Return on Investment
Return on investment is weighted the highest out of all factors. When one looks at education as an investment, the return on that investment becomes one of the most important factors.
Return on investment doesn’t become a factor until the degree is complete. That’s why graduation rate of universities is key. Now this can be affected by numerous factors. More selective schools that accept only top students will have higher graduation rates than schools with open admittance or lower requirements. However, there are schools with high acceptance rates that manage to have high graduation rates, so the ability of the school to help struggling students succeed is a factor. We subtract one point from schools with below 50% graduation rate unless the school has open admittance or a high enough transfer-out rate to bring the number above 50%. However, transfer out rate does not factor into the overall graduation rate because the students don’t graduate from that university.
It doesn’t matter how great the return on investment is if you can’t afford the school. This means tuition is important. It also contributes to which end of the average you are on for return on investment. The more you pay through loans, the lower your return will be because of interest and other factors.
Below Average ($37,172) Student Loan Debt=3 Points
Students should always attempt to graduate with as little debt as possible. A school having lower than average student debt shows they are willing to help students find funding alternatives to loans, and keep the student debt low. Not all financial aid departments are created equal.
Sources on Colleges That Accept Low SAT Scores
Information comes from either the website of each individual school or from the following sources.