Don’t Rely on ‘Safest Colleges’ Lists to Gauge Campus Security
Lists that claim to rank the ‘Safest Colleges’ in America are misleading. Students and parents must do their homework to find a campus that is truly secure and right for them.
Editor’s note: This article originally ran in February 2018, but we’re running it again this year because, once again, another “Safest Colleges” list has been published. These lists have significant flaws and are unreliable. If parents and students really want to find out if the college they are considering is safe, they need to do their homework and ask the right questions of their prospective campus administrators. That’s why I wrote Campus Safety’s Parent’s Guide to Keeping Your College Student Safe. It’s now available for free.
There is another “Safest Colleges” list going around right now. This time it’s from the National Council for Home Safety and Security. Six years ago, Business Insider came out with the “25 Most Dangerous Colleges in America,” and other organizations and publications have come out with similar lists in the years in between, claiming to rank the most secure or most dangerous U.S. institutions of higher education.
Years before any of these lists came out, we at Campus Safety magazine considered creating our own ranking system. We could have received a lot of great press coverage and made a lot of money from doing so.
The problem with all of these lists – including the one CS would have created – is that although they might have some good information, they are misleading. There are too many variables (campus size, location, number of students, culture, etc.) for the comparisons to be fair or accurate. Colleges that are on these lists probably just have really good marketing and PR departments.
Rankings like these do little or nothing to help prospective students and their parents pick a safe university. In fact, they could lull parents and students into a false sense of security.
It’s been my experience that all of the methodologies behind campus safety rankings have significant flaws. Creating a list that is truly accurate is impossible. The latest one released by the National Council for Home Safety and Security relies on crime data, which, as I explained in Publishing the ‘25 Most Dangerous Colleges in America’ List Is Irresponsible six years ago, doesn’t tell the whole story. Additionally, relying on crime data actually discourages colleges from accurately reporting incidents that occur on their campuses, which makes a school less safe because students and staff are unaware of what is really happening and are, therefore, less likely to take steps to protect themselves.
If parents and students really want to find out if the college they are considering is safe, they need to do their homework and ask the right questions of their prospective campus administrators. That’s why I wrote Campus Safety’s Parent’s Guide to Keeping Your College Student Safe. It’s now available for free.
This guide covers questions to ask at potential colleges in 10 crucial areas, talking points for parents to help their children avoid potential dangers and much more. It’s not as easy as just relying on a list, but it’s much more accurate and complete.