Going off to college comes with a mixed bag of excitement and nerves. And in 2020, we’ve got the extra worry that comes with the novel coronavirus.
The 50 Safest College Towns in America of 2020
We updated information about COVID-19 on campuses in our top 10 safest college towns. Get more news about coronavirus on campuses across the country in our coronavirus on campus column.
Be prepared for anything on campus this year. We've updated our 9 easy ways to stay safe on your college campus with tips for safety during the pandemic.
See which college towns are the safest in America
Even though there’s not much we can do to steady the waters during the ever-shifting tides of the pandemic, we can help you find out if your college town boasts a low crime rate.
Here are the 10 safest college towns in America:
- Milton, MA
- Rexburg, ID
- Madison, NJ
- Wellesley, MA
- Bristol, RI
- Durham, NH
- Lisle, IL
- Moraga, CA
- Princeton, NJ
- Berea, OH
See the full list of America’s 50 safest college towns.
How we picked the safest college towns in America
Our rankings are based purely on which college towns reported the fewest violent and property crimes per 1,000 residents.
We use the most recent FBI crime statistics, which include crime and population data that cities reported for 2018. This data isn’t infallible, but it’s the most consistent and comprehensive crime information available.
To be in the running, cities needed to exceed a population of 15,000 residents and be home to an accredited college that offered four-year degrees. We excluded for-profit institutions, technical and vocational schools, schools that offer only two-year degrees, and those with fewer than 2,000 students enrolled annually.
To rank each city, 50% of the score was determined by the number of violent crimes per 1,000 and 50% of the score was determined by the number of property crimes per 1,000.
Each measurement was normalized on a 0–1 scale with 1 corresponding to the measurement that would most positively affect the final score. These adjusted measurements were then added together with the weights mentioned above to get a score of 100.
For more information about how we rank cities, read our full methodology.
For the purposes of this report, the terms “safest” and “dangerous” refer explicitly to crime rates as calculated from FBI crime data—no other characterization of any community is implied or intended.
See which stats and trends caught our eye when we analyzed the safest college towns in America.
- 20 states and 55 colleges and universities are represented in this year’s ranking.
- Boone, North Carolina reported zero violent crimes, but a higher property crime rate (14.8 per 1,000) placed it at number 26. Boone is home to Appalachian State University.
- Bridgewater, Massachusetts—home to Bridgewater State University—reported the most violent crimes, with 2.1 incidents per 1,000. That’s still more than one full point below the national average of 3.7.
- Top city Milton, Massachusetts, had the lowest number of reported property crimes per 1,000 people—just 2.2. Curry College and its more than 2,000 students call Milton home (at least for the academic year).
- Moscow, Idaho, home to the University of Idaho, reported the highest property crime rate at 15.5 incidents per 1,000. That’s still well below the national average of 22.0.
- Irvine, California, is the largest city to land in the top 30 safest college towns, with nearly 300,000 residents. Its low crime rates (0.6 for violent crime and 12.7 for property crime) are especially impressive for such a big city.
- The average property crime rate among the safest college towns dropped seven percentage points year over year—8.6 incidents per 1,000 people in 2020 vs. 15.6 in 2019.
- The average violent crime rate among the safest college towns remained steady at 0.9 incidents per 1,000 people in 2019 and 2020. About half of the safest college cities reported less than one violent crime incident per 1,000 residents.
Returning to campus during COVID-19
On top of the usual back-to-school stress that parents and students feel every fall, this year comes with added concerns about the global pandemic.
We were happy to find that every institution in the safest college towns is doing what it can to assure a safe return to campus for students, faculty, staff, and their families.
Here are some notable things we discovered:
- Most schools are cutting the fall semester short with undergraduate classes ending before Thanksgiving. The change helps limit exposure from holiday gatherings after students return.
- Even campuses that are opening for in-person classes are keeping some online and hybrid options available for students.
- Nearly every college that’s starting the fall semester 100% online is keeping a return to campus on the backburner pending state and public health guidance. Many schools that are encouraging in-person attendance are providing free COVID-19 testing to students, faculty, and staff.
Update: 10/6/20 Despite efforts to ensure a safe return to campus, colleges across the nation quickly became hotspots for new cases of COVID-19. Data from The New York Times reports that more than 42,000 new positive cases popped up on college campuses across the country since the first of September. To see how the universities in towns that made our list are doing, check out coronavirus updates for our top 10 safest college towns.
Image source: Instagram @currycollege
Milton tops our list this year, thanks to reporting just 12 violent crimes and 60 property crimes in its most recent report to the FBI. Our top safest college town also ranked as the fourth safest city in Massachusetts this year and the 10th safest city in America.
These college towns sure are smart when it comes to safety. A lot of the cities on this list also landed on our 100 Safest Cities in America list.
Milton is home to Curry College, which is planning a return to in-person classes for fall 2020. The college will also be offering online and hybrid instruction.
To address COVID-19, the college is complying with public health and state guidance about social distancing for residence halls and in-person classes.
Five students have tested positive on the Curry College campus. All positive tests were found within one residential hall, Mayflower Hall. The whole residence hall was put in quarantine as of September 30.
Image source: Facebook @BYU-Idaho
Rexburg climbed one spot this year, reporting five total violent crimes and 135 property crimes. Rexburg also tops our list of the safest cities in Idaho for 2020, and landed as the 39th safest city in America.
Brigham Young University-Idaho calls this little Idaho town home and is offering both in-person and online options for students this fall.
BYU-Idaho is following statewide public health guidance for the novel coronavirus. The campus also added extra precautions like requiring masks for all students, employees, and visitors.
As of October 1, the BYU-Idaho campus has reported 43 positive student COVID-19 cases and 11 staff cases. Administrators have threatened to close the campus if students continue to flout COVID-19 precautions on campus.
Image source: Instagram @fduwhatsnew
It’s no surprise that Madison is also number 32 on our latest ranking of the 50 safest cities in New Jersey. This college town reported fewer than 80 total crimes in 2018—three were violent offenses, and 76 were property crimes.
Fairleigh Dickinson University is welcoming students back this fall for remote, hybrid and in-person classes. The first three weeks of the semester will be online, with face-to-face classes starting on September 8.
Fairleigh Dickinson University reported two positive COVID-19 cases among students and one positive case among staff and faculty as of September 30.
Image source: Facebook @Wellesley College
The city saw a dozen violent crimes in 2018 (the same as reported in 2017), and the property crime rate dipped year over year. The total number of property crimes reported was 124.
Image source: Facebook @Roger Williams University
There were fewer than 100 total crimes reported in Bristol, with 10 violent crime incidents and 89 property crime offenses.
Roger Williams University is preparing for in-person classes this fall. As part of the “Reopening Roger” plan, the university is looking into rapid testing on campus and discounts for student COVID-19 tests.
Roger Williams University has had 19 total positive cases and 41,871 negative COVID-19 test results as of September 30.
Image source: Facebook @University of New Hampshire
Home to the main campus of the University of New Hampshire, Durham climbed four spots in our ranking this year.
There were only 11 violent crimes reported by Durham law enforcement and just 53 property crimes.
This safe college town also showed up as the ninth safest city in New Hampshire and the 67th safest city in America for 2020.
UNH will bring students back onto campus this fall for in-person classes and residential housing. Pre-arrival coronavirus testing and ongoing weekly testing are in full swing for returning staff, faculty, and students.
The University of New Hampshire in Durham campus has been home to at least two clusters of the novel coronavirus. As of September 16, the state was monitoring 24 active cases and 60 recovered cases on the UNH-Durham campus.
Image source: Instagram @benu1887
Benedictine University calls Lisle home, and students can rest easy knowing that 2018 had just 16 violent crimes 106 property crimes reported.
The campus is instituting social distancing, increased cleaning measures, and mask requirements to help keep students safe as they return for in-person classes this fall.
Benedictine University has only seen one confirmed case of COVID-19 on campus since the fall semester started.
Image source: Instagram @stmarysca
Moraga debuts as one of the safest college towns in the US thanks to low crime numbers reported to the FBI. In 2018, there were only 12 violent crimes and 94 property crimes reported.
This city is home to Saint Mary’s College of California, where hybrid instruction will be offered for the fall semester. A mix of face-to-face, online, and hybrid courses will be available in an effort to keep all members of the college community safe.
There has been one confirmed case of COVID-19 on the St. Mary's College of California campus.
Image source: Facebook @Princeton University
This Ivy League college town dropped eight spaces this year but managed to stay in the top 10.
Property crime numbers are the biggest contributor to the city’s lower ranking, with 224 reported in 2018—that’s the most total property crimes reported among the top 10 safest college towns.
The city’s eponymous university is doubling down on safety this fall, keeping all undergraduate instruction online as the global pandemic continues. This decision factors in statewide coronavirus trends and public health guidance.
Princeton University has had three students test positive for the novel coronavirus on campus (40 were negative), and 54 students off-campus have tested positive. The university also reports 47 positive employee cases and 280 negative test results among staff and faculty.
Image source: Facebook @Baldwin Wallace University
This college town reported 10 violent crimes and 116 property crime incidents in 2018.
At Baldwin Wallace University, plans for a safe in-person fall semester are underway. Students will follow best practices for minimizing the spread of COVID-19 and attend classes in face-to-face and synchronous remote formats.
Berea didn’t see any immediate spikes in COVID-19 cases after students returned to campus at Baldwin Wallace University. As of October 5, the Baldwin Wallace University campus reported 45 total cases (active and recovered).
Image source: Instagram (@oaklandu)
Image source: Instagram (@eiu)
Image source: Facebook @Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Image source: Instagram (@endicottcollege)
Image source: Instagram (@cuwisconsin)
Image source: Instagram (@merrimackcollege)
Image source: Facebook @Virginia Tech
Image source: Instagram (@lifeatpurdue)
Image source: Instagram (@elmhurst.university)
Image source: Instagram (@dickinsoncollege)
Image source: Facebook @wtamu
Image source: Instagram (@robertmorrisuniversity)
Image source: Facebook @Bryant University
Image source: Instagram (@ionacollege)
Image source: Instagram (@bridgestateu)
Image source: Instagram (@appstate)
Image source: Facebook @Northwood University
Image source: Instagram (@wheatoncollegeil)
Image source: Facebook @University of California, Irvine
Image source: Instagram @northernmichiganu
The rest of the top 50 safest college towns
We calculated crime rates for every college city in the country that met our criteria. See which cities round out the top 50 safest college towns in America.
Violent crime rate*
Property crime rate*
Fall 2020 plan
De Pere, WI
Bowling Green, OH
Thousand Oaks, CA
*per 1,000 people
The 10 "most dangerous" college towns in America
These are the 10 college towns that landed at the bottom of our ranking. These cities reported the most crimes among the 456 American cities that qualified for our ranking.
Violent crime rate*
Property crime rate*
Fall 2020 plan
Saint Louis, MO
Little Rock, AR
*per 1,000 people
Memphis and Detroit also ranked among the most dangerous metro areas in the country for 2020.
How to make a safe home anywhere
Whether you live on campus or rent in town, it’s always smart to add extra security measures.
We’ve got security solutions that fit your hectic college lifestyle.
- Best Home Security Systems for Renters
- The Best Personal Safety Devices for Every Situation
- The Best Pepper Sprays for Self Defense
- How to Secure Your Dorm Room
And if you’re worried about leaving your parents at home on their own, check out our picks for Best Home Security Systems.