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The 50 Safest College Towns in America of 2020

Written by | Updated October 6, 2020
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Last Updated: 3 weeks ago
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.

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.

safest college towns map

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.

  1. Milton, MA
  2. Rexburg, ID
  3. Madison, NJ
  4. Wellesley, MA
  5. Bristol, RI
  6. Durham, NH
  7. Lisle, IL
  8. Moraga, CA
  9. Princeton, NJ
  10. 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.

graphic showing states with the most safe college towns

Interesting findings

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.
property crime graphic
violent crime graphic
  • 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.

Coronavirus on campus update

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.

The top 50 safest college towns

safest college towns badge 2020

NOTE: Crime rates are per 1,000 people. Tuition is based on in-state undergraduate tuition; cities with multiple colleges use the average. Fall 2020 plans are based on the primary approach of the colleges in each ranked city as of 08/10/20.

#1

Milton, Massachusetts

New

Curry College brick building
Population 27,642
Tuition/year $40,070
Fall 2020 return plan In-person
Undergrad population 2,342
Crime rates Violent: 0.4

Property: 2.2

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.

More safest cities

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.

Update: 10/6/20

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.

#2

Rexburg, Idaho

1

BYU-Idaho campus in Rexburg Idaho
Population 37,636
Tuition/year $4,118
Fall 2020 return plan Hybrid
Undergrad population 28,765
Crime rates Violent: 0.2

Property: 4.7

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.

Update: 10/6/20

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.

#3

Madison, New Jersey

New

Population 15,832
Tuition/year $43,142
Fall 2020 return plan Hybrid
Undergraduate population 2,713
Crime rates Violent: 0.2

Property: 4.8

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.

Update: 10/6/20

Fairleigh Dickinson University reported two positive COVID-19 cases among students and one positive case among staff and faculty as of September 30.

#4

Wellesley, Massachusetts

0

Wellesley College Campus
Population 29,681
Avg. tuition/year $52,418
Fall 2020 return plan Hybrid
Undergrad population 4,753
Crime rates Violent: 0.4

Property: 4.2

Image source: Facebook @Wellesley College

Wellesley is the fourth safest college town in America for the second consecutive year. It’s also the 10th safest city in Massachusetts and the 53rd safest city in America this year.

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.

Both Wellesley College and Babson College are offering students on-campus and remote learning options in the wake of COVID-19.

Update: 10/6/20

Wellesley College has only had one positive COVID-19 case on campus as of October 5. Babson College reports eight total cases on campus since the beginning of the semester. Both colleges have online coronavirus case dashboards to keep their communities updated.

#5

Bristol, Rhode Island

8

Roger Williams University campus in Bristol, RI
Population 22,131
Tuition/year $34,522
Fall 2020 return plan In-person
Undergrad population 4,347
Crime rates Violent: 0.5

Property: 4.0

Image source: Facebook @Roger Williams University

Bristol is having a banner year for safety. It ranked as the safest city in Rhode Island for 2020, and the 57th safest city in America.

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.

Update: 10/6/20

Roger Williams University has had 19 total positive cases and 41,871 negative COVID-19 test results as of September 30.

#6

Durham, New Hampshire

4

University of New Hampshire campus in Durham, NH
Population 16,813
Tuition/year $18,499
Fall 2020 return plan In-person
Undergrad population 12,668
Crime rates Violent: 0.7

Property: 3.2

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.

Update: 10/6/20

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.

#7

Lisle, Illinois

New

Benedictine University campus in Lisle, IL
Population 22,966
Tuition/year $34,290
Fall 2020 return plan In-person
Undergrad population 2,692
Crime rates Violent: 0.7

Property: 4.6

Image source: Instagram @benu1887

Lisle is new to our list this year, but this college town also ranked as one of our safest cities in Illinois for 2020.

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.

Update: 10/6/20

Benedictine University has only seen one confirmed case of COVID-19 on campus since the fall semester started.

#8

Moraga, California

New

Saint Mary's College of California campus is Moraga, CA
Population 17,866
Tuition/year $47,280
Fall 2020 return plan Hybrid
Undergrad population 2,781
Crime rates Violent: 0.7

Property: 5.3

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.

Update: 10/6/20

There has been one confirmed case of COVID-19 on the St. Mary’s College of California campus.

#9

Princeton, New Jersey

8

Princeton University
Population 31,856
Tuition/year $50,340
Fall 2020 return plan Online
Undergrad population 5,301
Crime rates Viiolent: 0.3

Property: 7.0

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.

Princeton also landed at number 70 on our safest cities in New Jersey report this year.

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.

Update: 10/6/20

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.

#10

Berea, Ohio

5

Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, OH
Population 18,838
Tuition/year $32,586
Fall 2020 return plan In-person
Undergrad population 3,058
Crime rates Violent: 0.5

Property: 6.2

Image source: Facebook @Baldwin Wallace University

Berea fell five spots to round out the top 10 safest college towns. It also ranked as the 20th safest city in Ohio this year.

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.

Update: 10/6/20

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).

#11

Rochester Hills, Michigan

New

Oakland University campus in Rochester Hills, Michigan
Population 74,669
Tuition/year $12,606
Fall 2020 return plan In-person
Undergrad population 15,476
Crime rates Violent: 0.7

Property: 5.9

Image source: Instagram (@oaklandu)

#12

Charleston, Illinois

New

Population 20,878
Tuition/year $11,803
Fall 2020 return plan Hybrid
Undergrad population 4,631
Crime rates Violent: 1.4

Property: 2.9

Image source: Instagram (@eiu)

#13

Edwardsville, Illinois

8

Southern Illinois University Campus
Population 25,054
Tuition/year $12,132
Fall 2020 return plan Hybrid
Undergrad population 10,786
Crime rates Violent: 0.5

Property: 7.4

Image source: Facebook @Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

#14

Beverly, Massachusetts

New

Endicott College campus in Beverly, Massachusetts
Population 42,114
Tuition/year $33,050
Fall 2020 return plan In-person
Undergrad population 3,033
Crime rates Violent: 1.0

Property: 5.8

Image source: Instagram (@endicottcollege)

#15

Mequon, Wisconsin

New

Concordia University in Mequon, WI
Population 24,311
Tuition/year $29,450
Fall 2020 return plan Hybrid
Undergrad population 3,272
Crime rates Violent: 0.2

Property: 9.9

Image source: Instagram (@cuwisconsin)

#16

North Andover, Massachusetts

New

Merrimack College campus in North Andover, MA
Population 31,394
Tuition/year $41,760
Fall 2020 return plan In-person
Undergrad population 3,648
Crime rates Violent: 1.1

Property: 5.5

Image source: Instagram (@merrimackcollege)

#17

Blacksburg, Virginia

8

Virginia Tech Campus
Population 44,853
Tuition/year $13,620
Fall 2020 return plan Hybrid
Undergrad population 27,730
Crime rates Violent: 0.9

Property: 7.2

Image source: Facebook @Virginia Tech

#18

West Lafayette, Indiana

New

Population 46,906
Tuition/year $9,992
Fall 2020 return plan In-person
Undergrad population 33,495
Crime rates Violent: 0.7

Property: 8.5

Image source: Instagram (@lifeatpurdue)

#19

Elmhurst, Illinois

New

Elmhurst College campus in Elmhurst, Illinois
Population 47,025
Tuition/year $37,055
Fall 2020 return plan In-person
Undergrad population 2,799
Crime rates Violent: 0.5

Property: 9.5

Image source: Instagrm (@elmhurst.university)

#20

Carlisle, Pennsylvania

New

Dickinson College campus
Population 19,335
Tuition/year $54,661
Fall 2020 return plan Online
Undergrad population 2,353
Crime rates Violent: 0.9

Property: 7.5

Image source: Instagram (@dickinsoncollege)

#21

Canyon, Texas

25

West Texas A & M University campus in Canyon, TX
Population 15,608
Tuition/year $7,935
Fall 2020 return plan In-person
Undergrad population 7,368
Crime rates Violent: 0.9

Property: 7.7

Image source: Facebook @wtamu

#22

Moon Township, Pennsylvania

New

Population 25,758
Tuition/year $30,300
Fall 2020 return plan In-person
Undergrad population 3,979
Crime rates Violent: 0.8

Property: 9.0

Image source: Instagram (@robertmorrisuniversity)

#23

Smithfield, Rhode Island

16

Bryant University Campus
Population 21,746
Tuition/year $43,973
Fall 2020 return plan Hybrid
Undergrad population 3,471
Crime rates Violent: 1.0

Property: 8.7

Image source: Facebook @Bryant University

#24

New Rochelle, New York

New

Iona College campus in New Rochelle, NY
Population 80,340
Tuition/year $38,812
Fall 2020 return plan Hybrid
Undergrad population 3,005
Crime rates Violent: 1.2

Property:8.3

Image source: Instagram (@ionacollege)

#25

Bridgewater, Massachusetts

New

Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, MA
Population 27,584
Tuition/year $10,367
Fall 2020 return plan Hybrid
Undergrad population 9,312
Crime rates Violent: 2.1

Property: 4.2

Image source: Instagram (@bridgestateu)

#26

Boone, North Carolina

New

Appalachian State University in Boone, NC
Population 19,524
Tuition/year $7,364
Fall 2020 return plan Hybrid
Undergrad population 17,265
Crime rates Violent: 0.0

Property: 14.8

Image source: Instagram (@appstate)

#27

Midland, Michigan

3

Northwood University in Midland, Michigan
Population 41,961
Tuition/year $27,060
Fall 2020 return plan In-person
Undergrad population 2,744
Crime rates Violent: 1.3

Property: 8.4

Image source: Facebook @Northwood University

#28

Wheaton, Illinois

New

Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL
Population 53,418
Tuition/year $36,420
Fall 2020 return plan Hybrid
Undergrad population 2,364
Crime rates Violent: 0.7

Property: 11.8

Image source: Instagram (@wheatoncollegeil)

#29

Irvine, California

18

University of California campus in Irvine, CA
Population 288,052
Tuition/year $13,040
Fall 2020 return plan Online
Undergrad population 33,814
Crime rates Violent: 0.6Property: 12.7

Image source: Facebook @University of California, Irvine

#30

Marquette, Michigan

New

Northern Michigan University campus in Marquette, MI
Population 20,529
Tuition/year $10,729
Fall 2020 return plan In-person
Undergrad population 6,722
Crime rates Violent: 1.1

Property: 9.9

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.

2020 rankingCityViolent crime rate*Property crime rate*Fall 2020 plan2019 ranking
31De Pere, WI1.58.1HybridN/A
32Medford, MA1.39.4HybridN/A
33Bowling Green, OH0.712.1Hybrid32
34Easton, MA1.86.9In-personN/A
35Willimantic, CT1.67.7In-personN/A
36Thousand Oaks, CA1.011.4Online34
37Middletown, CT0.812.6Hybrid26
38Northfield, MN1.49.7Hybrid39
39Waukesha, WI1.310.3HybridN/A
40Pullman, WA1.210.9Online15
41Laramie, WY1.012.2Hybrid23
42Bourbonnais, IL1.88.4HybridN/A
43Valparaiso, IN1.112.0In-person42
44Montclair, NJ1.012.9OnlineN/A
45Fairfield, CT0.515.3In-personN/A
46Camarillo, CA1.112.3HybridN/A
47Moscow, ID0.515.5In-person36
48Romeoville, IL1.510.9HybridN/A
49Waltham, MA1.99.0HybridN/A
50Williamsburg, VA1.312.7In-personN/A

*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.

2020 rankingCityViolent crime rate*Property crime rate*Fall 2020 plan2019 ranking
1Hammond, LA14.5103.4Hybrid9
2Memphis, TN19.464.1Hybrid3
3Birmingham, AL19.163.1HybridN/A
4Alexandria, LA14.584.1HybridN/A
5Greenwood, SC16.868.5Hybrid8
6Saint Louis, MO18.059.1HybridN/A
7Detroit, MI20.143.0Hybrid1
8Monroe, LA14.067.9HybridN/A
9Little Rock, AR14.565.5Hybrid4
10Baltimore, MD18.345.0Hybrid2

*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.

And if you’re worried about leaving your parents at home on their own, check out our picks for Best Home Security Systems.

Written by Rebecca Edwards

Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past six. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month testing and evaluating security products and strategies. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her work and contributions in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, HGTV, MSN, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips. Learn more

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  • Jeanne Talbot

    I think it would be great to consider the specific safety of LGBTQ students in these locations as a factor in your rankings.