Party schools are so last year. Today students (and parents) are looking for colleges that deliver academic excellence with a side of safety. Because safety is our jam at SafeWise, we dug into the FBI’s 2016 crime data to unearth the college towns with the best safety records. You’re not going to take a chance with your college student’s safety, and neither are we.
To deem a college town “safe,” we zeroed in on violent crimes per 1,000 people for each city. Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. We also looked at property crimes (burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson), but those numbers didn’t impact our final determination—so don’t stress if you see a safe city with higher property crime rates ranking better than one with lower property crime rates.
Here’s a closer look at some of our findings:
7 of the top 30 safest college towns are repeats from last year.
70% of the top 50 cities had zero murders reported in 2016.
19 of the cities on our list reported 25 or fewer violent crimes.
88% of the cities on the list reported fewer than 100 total violent crimes.
Only one city on the list reported zero murders and zero rapes: Moscow, Idaho.
All of the cities in our top 50 are at least three points below the national rate of violent crimes per 1,000 people, which is 4.64.
Only four states (RI, VT, ME, NH) across the country have violent crime rates below two per 1,000 people, but every city on our list is under 1.5 per 1,000.
Home to multiple colleges, this historic Boston suburb tops our list for the first time. And everyone in Brookline (college student or not) is in a living history class. JFK was born in Brookline, and you can tour the home and take in where little Jack laid his newborn head. In the civic-minded spirit of Kennedy, Brookline law enforcement and citizens are doing their part to keep city streets safe. Brookline only saw fourteen total violent crimes in 2016, according to the FBI’s most recent crime report—and there were no counts of murder or aggravated assault.
With just five violent crimes in 2016, Deerfield is a city that’s willing to be bold if it means keeping residents safe. In June, this college town amended the Village Code to ban assault weapons and large capacity magazines. Although an injunction was filed against the ban, the Village still passed the amendment. It also doesn’t hurt that Trinity International College was founded on Christian values. With an annual influx of around 2,500 students, that faithful population certainly contributes to the safe, friendly community that thrives in Deerfield.
This small southeastern Idaho town continues its streak as one of the safest colleges towns, holding onto the number three spot for the second consecutive year. It’s also one of the safest cities in the Gem State. Rexburg made it a three-peat this year, landing in the number one spot again. Overall, the city reported fewer than 200 crimes in 2016, and only nine were violent. And at BYU–Idaho, fewer than twenty-five crimes were reported in 2016, according to the college’s annual crime report.
A suburb of Philadelphia, this friendly township has been around since the Colonies. Upper Dublin is a family-oriented community where multiple generations have put down roots and big family dinners with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are easy to find. To help keep those families—and the city’s 3,000-plus college students—safe, Upper Dublin police have implemented a security camera registration program. This initiative encourages collaboration between residents and law enforcement to help deter (and catch) criminals.
This safe college community is smack-dab in the middle of the Boston Marathon. It’s also home to Wellesley College, which has been educating women for over 100 years. Fortunately, the female leaders who choose to expand their minds at Wellesley are part of a safe community that reported fewer than 175 total crimes in 2016. And on campus, there were just 15 total crimes reported. These low crime rates fit in with the charming architecture and idyllic vistas for which Wellesley is known.
Princeton slipped one spot from five to six on this year’s ranking, but that doesn’t mean this Ivy League city isn’t still tough on crime. There were only 248 total crimes reported in Princeton on the FBI’s most current crime stats. Plus, Princeton University reported just twenty-three violent crimes on campus in its 2017 crime report. That’s impressive, especially when you consider the student population exceeds 8,000. One way Princeton University creates a safe community is its focus on civic engagement, advocacy, and activism.
Home to Boston College, Newton had a higher number of violent crimes (forty-six) than most other cities in our top ten. But its higher population is what helped Newton beat out cities with fewer crimes reported. The city is committed to “unparallelled public safety,” which consists of expanding police presence, adding new officers, upgrading police equipment, and improving training and professional development for both police officers and firefighters.
A quintessential Southern city, Alpharetta is home to a Perimeter College campus of Georgia State University. When it comes to the well-being of Alpharetta’s residents and students, this city doesn’t stop with public safety initiatives. The town is also proactive about preserving green space, promoting physical fitness, and fostering community. Alpharetta celebrates culture with events like its summer concert series and puts fitness first with programs like the Mayor’s Corporate Challenge 5K Race.
Cost of Living
Median household income: $87,837
Average monthly rent: $1,820
Violent Crimes per 1,000 People
Property Crimes per 1,000 People
9. Smithfield, Rhode Island
There were just a dozen violent crimes reported in Smithfield, which helped launch it into our top ten safest college cities. And Bryant University, which serves around 3,700 students, only reported seven violent crimes on campus in 2016. Originally a Quaker settlement, Smithfield still embodies the family-friendly and community-oriented values of its founders. Visitors and residents can revisit the simplicity and resourcefulness of the city’s past with a visit to local farms that offer tours and other activities.
Home to over a quarter million people, it’s extraordinary to see Irvine round out our top ten safest college cities. While some lifelong residents worry that more people equals more crime, the numbers still work out in Irvine’s favor. Despite the large population, your chance of becoming a victim of violent crime in this growing California city is just 0.57 per 1,000 people. And students who attend the University of California, Irvine get more than a safe community. The college was just named the third best college in the country by Money. The rankings are based on academic rigor, affordability, and earnings post-graduation.
Fairfield has reason to celebrate its safe streets—this city jumped thirteen spaces to rank number eleven this year. Fairfield University’s excellent safety record adds to the sense of security in this college town. The college reported only seven violent offenses on campus in 2016. For a campus with more than 5,000 students, that low crime rate speaks well of both campus safety officers and the overall campus community. Fairfield’s other major university, Sacred Heart, serves over 8,000 students and boasts a crime report that showed just five violent offenses on campus in 2016.
There are at least seven college campuses that call Naperville home, making it a big destination for students from all over the country. Fortunately, all the moms and dads out there can feel comfortable sending their students to one of Naperville’s campuses, thanks to low crime rates and a number of citywide safety initiatives. The Crime Free Multi-Housing Program helps rental communities come together to eliminate illegal drugs and other criminal activities at their properties—which is reassuring if you have a student that lives off-campus.
It would be a shame if this city didn’t make our list. With a name like State College—and a flagship university like Penn State—it seems right that this city would do a good job looking after its own. In 2016, State College reported fewer than forty total violent crimes, with zero counts of murder or non-negligent homicide. The student population at Penn State nearly matches that of the city, at just over 47,000. But even with those large numbers, the university kept violent crime on campus to fewer than seventy-five reported offenses.
Nestled against the magnificent mountains of the Wasatch Front, Orem is repeatedly named one of the best places to live in the nation. Called “the quintessential family town” by Money, Orem invokes the kind of small-town nostalgia found in Leave It to Beaver—but with a truly modern flair. The city features an All-Together Playground that has accommodations for children of all abilities and the public library offers coding classes for kids (no big surprise for a city smack-dab in the middle of the Silicon Slopes). Another Orem jewel is Utah Valley University, which started out as a vocational school in 1941 and became a full-blown university in 2008.
This summer, one Gorham resident went above and beyond to save an injured stray pup she found in Columbus, Georgia. Hundreds of dollars (and miles) later, this down-on-his-luck doggie is now one of Gorham’s newest residents. Acts of kindness like this epitomize the community spirit of this college town. That spirit is also evidenced in the city’s low crime rate—there were just twelve violent crimes reported in 2016. This is good news for the hundreds of college students who live on campus at the University of Southern Maine. One of three campuses, Gorham is home to most of the university’s residence halls, so a safe community is a must.
Situated on the Idaho-Washington border, Moscow is home to a vibrant arts community. This Northwestern town was named one of the “Best 100 Small Art Towns in America.” Moscow celebrates and fosters artistic expression in nearly every form—from jazz festivals to plein air painting events. Having the University of Idaho in town helps foster a community of creativity. The university also encourages public service and responsible citizenship, which helps keep this artistic hamlet safe. In 2016, just twelve violent crimes were reported, and Moscow is the only city on our list to report zero counts of both murder and rape.
This safe college town is referred to as “The Education Community” thanks to its two major universities and plentiful vocational and trade schools. In addition to expanding the minds of thousands of college students, Tiffin also invests in public safety education. Safety City is an annual program for kids from kindergarten through third grade. It teaches biking, walking, car, and fire safety. Safety City is held just in time for back-to-school, to teach good habits and prevent accidents as children travel to and from school.
Northfield slipped eight places this year, but it can still be proud to be among the safest college towns in the country. Plus, it’s also been recognized as one of the best places to retire and one of the most beautiful small towns in America. Northfield is a charming river town, where arts, culture, and community are celebrated along the banks of the Cannon River. And those celebrations go off with nary a glitch from criminal or mischievous activities. In 2016, Northfield reported fewer than 230 total crimes, and just sixteen of them were violent.
Last year Bristol was number six on our list, and if recent actions by residents are any indication, this college town could be back on its way to the top ten. In July, a deadly crash on a designated bike path led citizens to install stop signs at the intersection where the accident occurred. This civic-led action spurred the city to respond by clearing overgrowth along the path and launching a study into 200 spots where the bike path intersects with vehicle traffic. This proactive citizen response is a prime example of why Bristol continues to be recognized as a safe, caring community.
Dropping one spot this year, Cortland continues to offer students a safe place to pursue higher education. The city once again kept the odds of falling victim to a violent crime below one in 1,000. Programs like the Junior Police Academy help to keep safety at the forefront for all citizens—starting with those still in high school. The two-week summer camp includes police ride alongs, de-escalation training, defensive tactics, SWAT demonstrations, and simulated firearms training. Emphasis is placed on how to be a responsible citizen.
This college town is winning on a lot of fronts. In addition to debuting as one of the country’s safest college towns, Virginia Tech sent three former players to the NFL draft. While that may be a bummer for Hokies fans, it’s a testament to the talent Virginia Tech puts on the field. As nearly 30,000 students flood the city this fall, both the campus and Blacksburg are rolling out the welcome mat. The city has resources for students who live off-campus, including tips for understanding a lease and how to choose a safe, supportive neighborhood. On campus, students undergo a series of welcome and orientation events to help build relationships and ensure a secure, productive semester.
William Jessup University has been named the thirteenth best college in California. That makes Rocklin’s hometown college a double-threat when it comes to both academics and safety. This Christian university reported just seven violent crimes on campus in 2016, while the city of Rocklin reported sixty-five. The campus employs everything from security cameras to guard patrols to help keep its students safe. There is also a security hotline so students can report a crime or suspicious activity without fear of reprisal.
This safe college town is close to all the action—just a quick train ride away from the hustle and bustle of The Big Apple. It’s nice for Union residents to be able to enjoy the big city and then retreat to the safe, friendly streets of their hometown. While the city reported just sixty-two violent crimes in 2016, Kean University reported only seven. These numbers are impressive for a city of more than 58,000 and a college campus of nearly 15,000 students.
Stanford University’s hometown isn’t immune to criminal activity, but Palo Alto does a good job of keeping its violent crime rate well below both state and national averages. And this prestigious university isn’t too shabby when it comes to limiting crime, either. In 2016, there were fewer than fifty violent crimes reported on the Stanford campus. The department of Environmental Health & Safety provides a robust selection of services to enhance safety and quality of life on campus. Everything from biosafety education to emergency preparedness is available to Stanford students and faculty.
This college town has been under some scrutiny in recent months, due to a tragic police-involved shooting. But Southaven’s overall record for safety is still impressive. Home to an Ole Miss campus, Southaven saw fewer than sixty violent crime incidents in 2016. To help keep residents safe, the city offers a wide array of educational programs focused on fire and life safety. Programs are tailored to fit different needs based on age and living situation. Both kids and older adults can take part in specially designed resources to help them lead a more secure, injury-free life.
Bethlehem is rich in colonial history and its citizens are proud of their heritage. That pride carries over into how the community looks after its residents, visitors, and college student population. With two major colleges in town (Lehigh University and Moravian College), keeping criminal activity down can be a challenge. But Bethlehem is doing its missionary founders proud. The city had zero aggravated assaults reported for the whole of 2018, which is unheard of in most cities, let alone one with a population near 75,000.
This college town has come a long way since the tragic death of openly-gay college student Matthew Shepard two decades ago. To mark the city’s progress—and acknowledge the mistakes of the past—the University of Wyoming and Mayor Andi Summerville have planned a series of memorial events to commemorate the troubling anniversary. University President Laurie Nichols spoke at a press conference, saying “that the university embraces diversity perhaps because of Matthew Shepard.” In the university’s annual crime report, there have been zero hate crime incidents reported for the past two years.
Despite falling ten spots in this year’s ranking, Marquette actually beat its violent crime rate from last year. In 2015, the city’s incidence of violent crimes per 1,000 residents was 2.10—nearly one point higher than its 2016 numbers. In fact, there were only twenty-five violent crimes reported in 2016. And Northern Michigan University beat that number with just twelve violent crimes reported on campus. An extensive lineup of public safety educational programs at NMU helps students learn how to recognize and navigate potentially dangerous situations.
Ashland boasts abundant civic pride and friendly community spirit. Locals join together to spot (and stop) criminal activity. This summer, Ashland rolled out an initiative to stop vandalism in city parks. That kind of communal effort isn’t unique in this college town—and Ashland University does its part as well. One of the university’s associate professors recently published a book about keeping students safe. Dr. Amy Klinger is a national school safety expert, and she co-founded the Educator’s School Safety Network.
Cost of Living
Median household income: $39,215
Average monthly rent: $850
Violent Crimes per 1,000 People
Property Crimes per 1,000 People
Complete Rankings: 50 Safest College Towns
Upper Dublin, Pennsylvania
Princeton, New Jersey
Smithfield, Rhode Island
West Hartford, Connecticut
State College, Pennsylvania
Bristol, Rhode Island
Cortland, New York
Union, New Jersey
Palo Alto, California
Montclair, New Jersey
South Hadley, Massachusetts
Dickinson, North Dakota
Brookings, South Dakota
Port St. Lucie, Florida
Coral Gables, FL
*Per 1,000 people.
To identify the safest college towns of 2018, we looked at the most recent FBI crime report for each city that met our criteria.² To be in the running, cities needed to exceed 15,000 residents and be home to an accredited college that offered four-year degrees. We excluded for-profit institutions, technical and vocational schools, community colleges, seminaries, field-specific institutions, and schools that only offer two-year degrees. Rankings were based on the incidence of violent crime per capita.
If you would like to contact a SafeWise Safest Cities Analyst, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cost of Living data found on bestplaces.net. To find a specific city, enter the city name in the Search field. Average rent is based on a two-bedroom house or apartment.
Rebecca has honed her safety and security skills as both a single mom and a college director. Being responsible for the well-being of others helped her learn how to minimize risk and create safe environments. Learn more