Preparing for College

New Report: Safest College Campuses in America

Your Local Security

I’m a dad of two college graduates. Both my daughter and son were hours away by car during their higher educations. I would always joke with a friend of mine, when we were discussing our children’s respective college experiences, that we probably were glad that we didn’t know everything our kids were up to while they were on campus. The main reason for our “ignorance is bliss” attitudes was our own memories of our college days, which may or may not have been like scenes from Animal House.

One aspect that we took very seriously, though, was their safety on campus. We discussed our impressions of the neighborhoods that surrounded our collegians’ schools and kept an eye on campus happenings, both good and bad, from reports in the schools’ student newspapers.


Speaking of reports in student newspapers, I saw one the other day that got me thinking once again about campus safety. It came from the Yale Daily News. Here are the disturbing highlights:

Students robbed at gunpoint. “Two Yale students were robbed at gunpoint in a Timothy Dwight College suite in the early hours of Monday morning, Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins wrote in a University-wide email two hours after the incident. … When confronted by the two students, the intruder brandished a handgun and stole a computer before fleeing the college, Higgins wrote in the email. Neither student reported physical injuries. YPD officers are investigating the incident and have increased the number of patrols in the area. … The armed robbery inside a Yale suite came on the eve of Bulldog Days, the annual admissions event that showcases Yale to high school seniors who have been accepted to the college. …

“… When Kenneth Xu, ’21, arrived back at his TD dorm at 1:30 a.m. Monday morning, he said he heard a commotion outside and soon saw police officers searching a nearby TD entryway. After noticing that one of the two victims had posted about being robbed at gunpoint in the TD Facebook group, he warned his hallmates to lock their doors. ‘I was really shaken that night, since I realized that it could have very easily happened to me,’ Xu said. ‘Usually I feel safe in the vicinity of TD, but not anymore.’"

Although New Haven, Conn., home of Yale University, is not noted for its safety profile, this scene could have happened on almost any college campus today. The country -- and especially the world -- is certainly not the same place it was when my friend and I wandered the streets of our alma maters in the wee hours. I found this report of an armed robbery especially disturbing. I see frequent stories about bikes and computers being swiped from dorm areas, but those thefts happen when the students aren’t around. This Yale incident happened face-to-face. Looking down the muzzle of a firearm is not something anyone should experience.

New Report Highlights Safe Campuses

Coincidentally, on the same day I read about the Yale incident, I received information about a new report detailing the safest American campuses. It said, in part:

“Safety is fast becoming a major determining factor for which university or college a future student will choose to attend. With a slew of recent reports citing school shootings, sex trafficking and lack of food, we couldn't help but wonder about overall college campus safety in the US."

“Your Local Security released its 2018’s Safest College Campuses report on April 23. To compile this report, we studied the most recent crime data sets provided by the US Department of Education's Campus Safety Security Survey and the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting data. The results were then calculated and ranked using the information provided by those two reports.” …

Obviously, in light of my reading about the Yale robbery, I was curious to see exactly what Your Local Security’s report said. I thought I would give you a few highlights and encourage you to read the entire report for your own edification. Following you'll find some introductory information from the report, along with some sample narratives about a few of these top-rated-for-safety schools:

Your Guide to the Nation’s 25 Safest Universities—Plus the Safest Campus in Each State

Whether you’re the parent of a high schooler or a student who prioritizes safety, have a look at our list below — and if you haven’t already, consider applying to some of the safest colleges in the US.

Factors Considered

It takes a lot of cross-referencing and deep digging to identify and rank the nation’s safest schools. We got our results by checking (and checking, and checking again) the following crime reports:

- Campus Safety and Security Survey. Every year, the US Department of Education requires institutions of higher learning to report their campus’ crime statistics. (Want to run the numbers yourself? The Campus Safety and Security site makes it easy for parents, students, and researchers alike to download and decipher the data.)

- FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR). Along with looking at the colleges’ self-reported data, we looked at the FBI’s yearly crime reports for the cities that host these campuses.

Then, we used the following factors to decide which schools to include:

Campus size. We only looked at universities that had at least 1,000 enrolled students.

Type of campus. We included universities and community colleges that offered two- to four-year degrees. We also included private, public, non-profit and for-profit campuses.

Campus location. Several campuses across the country have exceptionally safe satellite or secondary campuses, but we chose to consider only universities’ main campuses.

Types of crime. We considered incidences of property crime, violent crime, and violence against women, then weighed the crimes by severity and divided the school’s crime by enrollment to calculate total per capita crime.

Data availability. Unfortunately, some cities and colleges didn’t have sufficient data from our two main sources to include them in our ranking.

Due to the length of the listing, I won’t reproduce it all here, but I will pull a half-dozen from the Top 25. I encourage you to check the complete listing, along with a map of the United States, which shows the safest school in each state, according to this report. All that follows the Top 25 list.

Here, then, are six safe schools from Your Local Security’s list:

1. Oregon State University (Corvallis, Ore.)

Per our data, the safest college in the nation is located just outside of Portland and only an hour away from the gorgeous Oregon coast. If you attend OSU, you’ll have opportunities to learn both on campus and off (for instance, in summer 2018, a group of staff members and students will travel to Puerto Rico to offer aid alongside a local university). No matter where you study, though, you can rest assured knowing the university is doing everything it can to keep you safe.

The Campus Safety Information page has resources for everyone from bikers to those worried about identity theft, and the Department of Public Safety works closely with groups like the Women’s Center and Counseling & Psychological Services to provide maximum security.

2. University of Phoenix-Arizona (Tempe, Ariz.)

The way we do college is changing — fast. Colleges like the University of Phoenix offer online degrees to give more students than ever access to affordable, off-site education, and the University of Phoenix’s physical campus is safer than most others in the nation. The university provides a comprehensive list of staff members who can be contacted for immediate assistance. Plus, unlike many other universities, the University of Phoenix-Arizona goes the extra mile by including a section on gender discrimination, assault and harassment on its list of campus safety priorities and resources.

12. Purdue University (Lafayette, Ind.)

Purdue University is well-known for its robust student athletics programs — it’s a part of the regional Big Ten Conference — and its high-quality academic programs. To keep students safe while they study, work and socialize, Purdue’s police department teaches safety courses, offers a law enforcement student internship program and issues Timely Warning notifications online to bring students into the loop about campus crime statistics.

13. University of Montana (Missoula, Mont.)

The University of Montana calls gorgeous Western Montana home, giving students spectacular views of Montana’s one-of-a-kind landscape. It also boasts several prestigious alumni, including one of the most recent recipients of the Pulitzer Prize. UM’s safety resources include student-run nighttime escorts seven days a week so students never have to walk home alone. Meanwhile, the Campus Safety Committee is comprised of university officials, staff members and a student representative who work together to ensure the campus is a safe place to live and learn.

24. University of Nebraska – Lincoln (Lincoln, Neb.)

Located in Nebraska’s capital city, UNL is the largest, oldest and safest campus in the state. The university’s police department site includes helpful emergency preparedness and response information for parents, teachers, students and staff members alike. The site also helps students new to Nebraska familiarize themselves with state resources.

25. University of Delaware (Newark, Del.)

The University of Delaware offers over 100 bachelor’s degrees and nearly 150 master’s programs, plus more than 60 doctoral programs. The comprehensive Office of Campus & Public Safety provides resources on environmental safety, emergency preparedness and the Student Behavior Consultation Team, which helps students support each other and intervene in crisis situations. The office also recommends a host of crime alert tools and other tech-based resources that keep students in the know.

***

This report is a good starting point for anyone interested in the relative safety of particular schools in America. It also provides clues as to how to go deeper in exploring a school’s safety profile. Student newspapers can only cover so much. Information from a school’s safety department, among other sources, is perhaps the best way to assess security.

Of course, don’t forget about actually asking some students what they think about the safety of their campus when you visit. Current students are a great source of information about a number of campus aspects. Don’t be afraid to approach them. You’ll be surprised how glad they’ll be to cooperate and answer your questions.