Reputation, affordability, and a sense of belonging are all concerns that come up when you and your teen are selecting the right college. However, safety has become another top factor that both parents and students care about. According to a Wearsafe Labs survey, 70% of parents feel that campus safety is critical to school choice.1
Safety isn’t always just about the campus, though. The city a college calls home also plays a big role in making a final decision. Whether you’re a new college student, sending a child away to school for the first time, or considering a move to a college town, you want to know that the community around the college also has a lot to offer.
As your go-to resource for safety information, SafeWise is proud to help you identify the safest college towns in the country. Our security experts analyzed the most recent FBI crime statistics and sought out safety-oriented programs and initiatives in college cities throughout the nation. The culmination of these efforts is the list below.
If you’ve been flip-flopping between schools, this list might help you break the tie. Because quality of life matters—and you don’t need to stress about adjusting to a new environment and staying safe—we’ve selected cities that offer top-notch education and outstanding safety records both on and off campus.
See if your favorite location made this year’s list of the safest college towns in the country.
1. Durham, New Hampshire
Durham climbed from number four on last year’s “30 Safest College Towns in America” list and claimed the top spot this year. Home to the University of New Hampshire, this quaint New England town welcomes nearly 3,000 students each year, and it does a good job keeping them—and year-round residents—safe. According to the university’s annual campus crime report, there have been no instances of murder, negligent manslaughter, statutory rape, or robbery reported for the past three years.2 Active campus programs like SHARPP (Sexual Harassment & Rape Prevention Program) get students involved in crime prevention and awareness. Student volunteers help run a twenty-four-hour support line for sexual
2. Charleston, Illinois
Home to a thriving college campus, Charleston remains the second-safest college town in the country for the second consecutive year. Eastern Illinois University has detailed campus safety plans and provides college students with multiple resources they can use to stay safe in the area. When off campus, students and their families have the Charleston Police Department looking out for them. If you are or a loved one is heading off to study in this historic city of more than 21,000 residents, you can rest easy knowing that your chance of falling victim to violent crime is less than three in 1,000 people.
3. Rexburg, Idaho
Brigham Young University–Idaho (BYU–I) sees 18,000 students on campus each semester, nearly matching the year-round population of its hometown.3 Despite the jump in population every academic year, Rexburg remains a close-knit, wholesome community where family values take center stage. In addition to moving up from the number-six spot on last year’s list, Rexburg has also been recognized by SafeWise as the number-one safest city in Idaho for two years running. Rexburg police help facilitate block parties where citizens learn how to make their neighborhoods safer, and the department also offers free car seat checks, hunter safety classes, and Rape Aggression Defense Systems (R.A.D.) courses for women in the community.
4. Amherst, Massachusetts
Home to Amherst College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Hampshire College, the city of Amherst is a community rooted in tradition. College life is an integral part of Amherst, and the campuses give back to the town through outreach programs. Take Amherst College’s Book and Plow Farm for example. Students manage the twenty-acre vegetable farm, and the fruits of their labor supplied 32,000 pounds of sustainable produce to the Valentine Dining Hall in 2015.4 The same strong work ethic present at the farm is also evidenced by local law enforcement. Thanks to their conscientious efforts, the chances of falling victim to a violent crime in Amherst is less than two in 1,000, and the odds of experiencing a property crime are just over six in 1,000.
5. Princeton, New Jersey
This city is well-known for its namesake university, one of the country’s most distinguished Ivy League colleges. In addition to Princeton University, this safe college town also hosts the Westminster Choir College of Rider University. Both higher education institutions are distinctive for their stellar reputations and rich history. They also share a host city that puts safety first. In 2015, Princeton reported just thirteen violent crimes, and the city had zero counts of both arson and murder. Programs like Adopt-a-Cop familiarize residents with public safety from a young age, bringing police officers into elementary school classrooms and teaching lessons like drug safety and home safety.
6. Bristol, Rhode Island
Most college students don’t get to expand their minds while taking classes at the water’s edge, but Rogers Williams University students are one exception. Not only does this Rhode Island university have a breathtaking bayside campus but it also boasts a proud legacy of education dedicated to improving society at large. It’s no wonder that a college committed to the greater good would be nestled in a safe community that helps students and their families sleep better at night. Niche ranked Bristol the third-safest suburb in Rhode Island and the fourth-safest place to live in the state overall, giving it an A- for crime and safety.
7. Highland Heights, Kentucky
Tucked away in the hills of northern Kentucky, Highland Heights is a suburb across the river from Cincinnati that has maintained its small-town charm and low crime rate despite the rapid growth of Northern Kentucky University. As one of the state’s fastest-growing colleges, NKU has managed the influx of higher student populations while keeping crime rates low. The university’s most recent campus crime report revealed zero incidents of robbery, aggravated assault, murder, fondling, and arson in the 2015 academic year.5 Security is just one part of what students love about NKU—student reviews on Unigo indicate the campus is diverse, inclusive, safe, and welcoming.
8. Pullman, Washington
Pullman is one of the biggest little cities you’ll ever visit. Full of cosmopolitan amenities and down-home charm, this eastern Washington gem is also home to the flagship campus Washington State University. The city has repeatedly been recognized as one of Washington’s safest cities, one of America’s safest college towns, and one of the best college-town neighborhoods for adults. Whether you’re looking to go to school or relocating to the area, Pullman offers a diverse community committed to family values, sustainability, and a high quality of life. In academic year 2015–2016, more than 9,500 WSU students participated in community outreach, providing over 87,000 hours of civic service.6
9. Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania
Nestled among the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania, Slippery Rock is a friendly community that provides a safe haven for families and the more than 8,500 students that flock to Slippery Rock University to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees each academic year.7 Overall, this picturesque town saw fewer than forty total violent crimes, as reported in the FBI’s most current data. That same lack of criminal activity is reflected on the SRU campus, where no arson, robbery, auto theft, or murder has been reported for the past three years.8 University Police are available 24/7 and provide safety call boxes as well as an escort service that offers safe passage for students, faculty, visitors, and staff throughout the campus.
10. Hanover, New Hampshire
Touted as possibly “the best college town of all” by Yankee magazine, Hanover is home to Dartmouth, one of the famed Ivies. The college sits on a gorgeous 269 acres of land surrounded by mountains and situated along the shores of the Connecticut River. As if the ideal setting and quality education weren’t enough to tempt the country’s boldest and brightest, the city’s safety record offers the proverbial cherry on top. Hanover reported just twelve violent crimes and only 120 property crimes, according to the FBI’s most recent crime statistics. The city’s dedicated police force provides comprehensive public safety services including business security checks, a ride-along program, and vacant residence checks.
11. Northfield, Minnesota
Proud home to two outstanding colleges, Northfield can also boast about its low crime rates. This charming Minnesota hamlet reported just nine total violent crimes in 2015. In addition, both Carleton College and St. Olaf College showed minimal criminal activity on campus, according to their most current campus crime reports. Thanks to the successful efforts of city and campus police departments, students are free to delve into their studies and enjoy the breathtaking scenery that thrives in Northfield. In the spirit of transparency, Northfield offers its citizens up-to-date reports of criminal activity via their crime statistics map that shows locations of crimes, tips for the public, and crime statistics for the past year.
12. Canyon, Texas
The beauty of this panhandle city has inspired the likes of artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, who was drawn to the awe-inspiring grandeur of Palo Duro Canyon. Scholars, business owners, and families looking for the right place to settle down are still drawn to this breathtaking locale. In addition to prestigious West Texas A&M University, Canyon is known for its quiet neighborhoods and active cultural life. In 2015, Canyon reported fewer than 190 total crimes, including just twenty-four violent offenses. Crime prevention measures like the Citizen Police Academy and Canyon Crime Stoppers help get the whole community involved in keeping this college city safe.
13. Waltham, Massachusetts
This safe college city hosts numerous festivals each year that celebrate Waltham’s many ethnic residents. The local philharmonic and symphony orchestras each perform several concerts annually and feature a vast array of musicians of all ages. Fitting right into this cultural powerhouse are Brandeis and Bentley universities, where students are free to pursue their passions without worries about personal safety. In fact, the Massachusetts Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators recognized Bentley’s University Police Chief for his comprehensive community policing philosophy and safety awareness initiatives. A mandatory First Week safety program, safety escort service, and a campus-wide notification system are just some of Bentley’s campus safety programs.
14. Millersville, Pennsylvania
Millersville University of Pennsylvania is the centerpiece of this Pennsylvania borough. Thanks to the combined efforts of law enforcement and rescue personnel, Millersville enjoys a relatively crime-free environment. In 2015, there were just 114 total crimes reported, and only eleven of those were of a violent nature. On the rambling MU campus, students are protected by the University Police. The department provides security coverage 24/7 and is staffed by sworn state-commissioned officers. On-campus safety programs include a six-week sexual violence education program, a men’s-only program that fights gender violence, and a bystander intervention campaign that calls on every student to play a role in ending violence on campus.
15. Edinboro, Pennsylvania
This lake resort town is a unique mixture of part-time and permanent residents. Both the lakeshore and Edinboro University of Pennsylvania attract seasonal residents, while the city’s core of around 6,400 citizens maintains the town’s flourishing business and cultural lives. Even though the year-round population fluctuates, the Edinboro Police Department maintains safe city streets and a sense of security for all residents, visitors, and students. This unique community only experienced five incidents of violent crime in 2015, and there were no counts of arson or motor vehicle theft. The city launched a neighborhood watch program, which enlists the support of citizens to ensure Edinboro remains a safe place to learn and live in.
16. Houghton, Michigan
The Gateway to the Keweenaw is home to a safe, vibrant waterfront community as well as Michigan Technological University. Houghton is a city where people play just as hard as they work, whether it’s in pursuit of a college degree or as part of the town’s bustling business community. The Michigan Tech Department of Public Safety and Police Services (DPSPS) works closely with the Houghton Police Department to provide round-the-clock protection for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors. A Resident Officer Program gets students involved and features a DPSPS satellite office in campus residence halls to foster communication and provide awareness, safety, and prevention programming to student groups.
17. Williamsburg, Virginia
Williamsburg has civic pride and colonial charm oozing from every historic nook and cranny. Named as one of Travel + Leisure’s fifteen top cities in the US, this historical enclave isn’t stuck in the past when it comes to recreation, culture, and public safety. Home to the country’s second-oldest college, Williamsburg understands the value of protecting its own. In 2015, this city of nearly 15,000 reported just over 200 total crimes to the FBI, with only ten of those being violent offenses. On the College of William and Mary campus, there were zero incidents of aggravated assault, robbery, arson, statutory rape, and murder reported in 2015.9 To boost campus safety, the college offers students, faculty, and staff two free mobile safety apps to keep them connected to loved ones and prepared in case of an emergency.
18. Clarion, Pennsylvania
Home to 7,000 year-round residents and approximately 7,500 university students, Clarion has its hands full in terms of keeping the public safe.10 But this charming town is up to the challenge, as evidenced by its low crime rate. In 2015, Clarion reported zero incidents of murder, robbery, and arson among seventy total violent and property crimes recorded. The city’s police force works tirelessly to respond to an average of 12,000 calls for service each year, employing both vehicle and bicycle patrols to ensure citizens can rest easy at night.11 On the campus of Clarion University, the Office of Emergency Management provides emergency preparedness training to ensure that students would know what to do in the event of a bomb threat, active shooter, or severe weather emergency.
19. Marquette, Michigan
In Marquette, you’re never too young to become part of the solution to public safety issues. The Marquette City Police Department has a youth services bureau that provides educational programs about everything from bicycle safety to youth violence prevention. Working in conjunction with Northern Michigan University’s Department of Public Safety and the County Sheriff’s Department, crime is held to a minimum in this Upper Peninsula city. Marquette averaged 2.10 violent crimes per 1,000 residents in 2015, and property crime was just 12.81 per 1,000. In addition, the city reported a total of forty-five violent crimes, and there were zero counts of arson and murder.
20. Cortland, New York
Situated on a plain where seven valleys converge, Cortland is known as the Crown City. It is home to the State University of New York at Cortland (SUNY Cortland), which has been ranked as one of the “best colleges for your money” by Money magazine. In addition to getting a big bang for their buck at SUNY Cortland, students and parents also get one of the safest college campuses. The campus is dotted with university police officers on foot and bike as well as in patrol cars. There are emergency blue light phones located throughout campus, and all residence halls, parking lots, and athletic fields are under video surveillance. SUNY Cortland also provides free shuttles on campus and downtown to ensure safe transport to and from residence halls.
21. Medford, Massachusetts
Just three miles from the heart of downtown Boston, along the Mystic River, Medford is home to Tufts University, a private research university that has been named as one of the “most influential, innovative institutions in the world.” Tufts was ranked eleven out of 200 for its prolific publication of quality research articles.12 Both city and university police do their part to make sure the big brains at Tufts are free to focus on making the world a better place, as opposed to being distracted by security concerns. Medford, which is home to more than 57,000 residents, reported just 107 violent crimes and 761 property crimes in 2015. On campus, there were no incidents of arson, non-forcible sex offenses, stalking, or murder reported in the most recent year.13
22. Maryville, Missouri
Home to Northwest Missouri State University, this college town understands the importance of providing a secure environment where students and their families feel safe. Maryville employs a Public Safety Department that combines law enforcement and firefighting personnel. Officers are cross-trained so they can respond to a variety of different needs in the community. This innovative approach has helped the city keep crime rates low; the city reported fewer than thirty violent crimes in 2015. When they’re not on routine patrol, Maryville’s public safety officers provide community services such as car seat safety inspections and vacation home watch services.
23. Mount Pleasant, Michigan
Mount Pleasant hosts the main campus of Central Michigan University, which nearly doubles the city’s population during the academic year.14 This college town takes pride in its community and even has an entire unit dedicated to keeping neighborhoods in top condition. The Neighborhood Resource Unit checks in on occupied and rental properties to ensure safety and upkeep in all Mount Pleasant neighborhoods. The unit also coordinates with the rental communities at CMU to make sure all student residences are kept up to code and in good repair.
24. Fairfield, Connecticut
Located along the Gold Coast of Connecticut, Fairfield is a charming town that features five miles of shoreline on the Long Island Sound. Considered one of the Northeast’s top communities, this safe college city offers a high quality of life, abundant outdoor recreation, and a stellar safety record. Fairfield has a population of more than 61,000 residents, which makes its low crime rate even more impressive. In 2015, the city reported twenty-one violent crimes and 945 property crimes. Parents sending their students off to Fairfield or Sacred Heart universities can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the community has relatively low crime rates.
25. Orono, Maine
The University of Maine has a 150-year legacy that places it on multiple “best college” guides every year.15 Nestled in the natural abundance of Orono, Maine, is one of the nation’s top green colleges and focuses a bulk of its research efforts in ecological areas. The university and the city it calls home equally commit to protecting both its citizens and natural resources. Orono had just 170 violent and property crimes reported in 2015, and the community has many public safety programs to ensure crime stays low. Both the Good Morning Program and the Kid Safe Program help protect the city’s most vulnerable residents: older adults and those with special needs or disabilities.
26. Montclair, New Jersey
With about 21,000 active students on the Montclair State University campus, pedestrian safety is a big priority in this college town.16 The city of Montclair recently teamed up with the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority in an effort to reduce the number of pedestrian accidents on the city’s busy Bloomfield Avenue. Between 2011 and 2015, the bustling corridor saw 256 pedestrian-involved accidents that resulted in three deaths.17 The initiative, entitled Street Smart NJ, aims to educate drivers and pedestrians and improve enforcement of transportation laws and rules. In other cities using the Street Smart NJ campaign, there was a 40% reduction in drivers failing to yield to pedestrians and 28% fewer incidents of pedestrians crossing streets when they shouldn’t.18
27. Westfield, Massachusetts
Westfield State University is known for its inclusive practices and proactive approach to campus safety for all members of the university community. Likewise, the city of Westfield strives to make the area a welcoming, safe place for all. The town motto, “Community Driven,” speaks to that commitment, as do the outreach programs like the Community Police Resource Center that opened in June 2016. The center hosts public safety trainings and serves as a gathering place for community meetings and non-profit organizations that address concerns like domestic violence and substance abuse. Perhaps it’s groundbreaking initiatives like this that helped the city limit violent crime to just eighty reported incidents in 2015.
28. East Lansing, Michigan
Known as the home of Michigan State University, East Lansing is a thriving community dedicated to education, local business, and civic engagement. The city offers a variety of free concerts and movie festivals to draw out residents and inspire community spirit. A thriving farmers market features locally grown produce and supports regional artisans. East Lansing also prides itself on the safety of its streets. This college town of nearly 50,000 residents reported just 822 crimes in 2015, with only ninety-four of those involving violent offenses. Recently, the East Lansing Police Department expanded its Neighborhood Watch Program to dedicate neighborhood resource officers to working hand-in-hand with residents to improve community safety.
29. West Haven, Connecticut
The brilliant fall foliage may attract flocks of students to the University of New Haven, but the quality of life and the safe city streets make them want to stay. West Haven was settled in 1648 and is home to multiple buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Preserving its heritage and protecting its citizens are equally important to this historic college town. West Haven police work from a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, which helped them keep violent crime to fewer than seventy incidents in 2015. Along with accolades for safety, UNH has also been recognized by the Princeton Review as one of its 2017 Best Colleges.
30. Edmond, Oklahoma
Edmond was born out of the great Oklahoma land run of 1889 and virtually sprang up overnight. But from its hasty beginnings formed a thriving, stable community that is now home to the University of Central Oklahoma. Perhaps it’s the pioneering roots of the town that have bred ingenuity within its residents, but the university takes an extra innovative approach to public safety. On campus, the Broncho Five-O program encourages students to give anonymous tips on suspicious activity, crimes, or possible suspects. Students can email or phone Broncho Five-O without fear of reprisal or identification. The program was put in place to help students overcome fears that may cause them to hesitate and withhold information that can help solve crimes.
How We Rank the College Towns
Starting with the FBI’s most recent crime statistics from 2015, SafeWise security experts calculated the total number of crimes committed in each American city with at least one accredited, academic institution of higher learning. Next, we weighed those numbers in relation to population numbers and other important factors. Finally, SafeWise identified relevant safety, security, and community outreach programs that help make each Safest College Town safer.
1. PRWeb, “Survey: 52% of Parents with College Students ‘Very Concerned’ about Sexual Assault”
2. University of New Hampshire, “Annual Security Report and Annual Fire Safety Report for the Students, Faculty and Staff of the University of New Hampshire-Durham Campus”
3. BYU–Idaho, “About BYU–Idaho”
4. Amherst College, “Book & Plow Farm”
5. Northern Kentucky University, “Annual Campus Safety and Security Report for 2016”
6. Washington State University, “WSU at a Glance, Extraordinary Student Experience”
7. Slippery Rock University, “About Slippery Rock University”
8. Slippery Rock University, “Annual Security Report”
9. College of William and Mary, “2016 Annual Campus Safety and Fire Safety Report”
10. Clarion Borough, “Welcome to Clarion Borough”
11. Clarion Borough, “Mission of the Clarion Borough Police Department”
12. TuftsNow, “Nature Index Names Tufts among Most Influential, Innovative Institutions in the World”
13. Tufts University Department of Public and Environmental Safety, “Annual Security Report”
14. Central Michigan University, “CMU Quick Facts”
15. The University of Maine, “Quick Facts”
16. Montclair State University, “Academic Programs from Accounting to Visual Arts”
17. Montclair Local, “Montclair Joins Bloomfield Ave. Pedestrian-Safety Initiative”
18. Montclair Local, “Montclair Joins Bloomfield Ave. Pedestrian-Safety Initiative”