The 50 Safest College Towns in America of 2021

Safest college towns

As of November 1, some students have started receiving early decisions from colleges they applied to, while others are entering their last year of high school and determining which schools they’d like to attend. But these days, they have more to consider with the ongoing pandemic.

This summer, the Biden Administration challenged schools to increase vaccination. And now, more colleges are pushing for vaccine requirements, urging students, parents, schools, and legislators to pin down their plans.

In a recent preliminary crime report from the FBI, the first six months of 2020 showed a 14.8% increase for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, and aggravated assault offenses were up 4.6%.2 

Parents and students may want to weigh safety considerations as they pick out school locations. To help put their minds at ease and highlight safe school options, we ranked the 50 safest college towns in America.

Here are the 10 safest college towns 2021

1. Milton, MA
2. Durham, NH
3. Madison, NJ 
4. Rexburg, ID 
5. Wellesley, MA
6. Berea, OH  
7. North Andover, MA 
8. Bristol, RI 
9. Lisle, IL 
10. Rochester Hills, MI 

See the full list of America's 50 safest college towns. 

How we picked the safest college towns in America

Our rankings are based on college towns that report the lowest violent crimes and property crimes per 1,000 residents.

We use the most recent FBI statistics, which currently include crime and population data reported for 2019.3 This data doesn’t capture the complete picture. Still, it’s the most consistent and comprehensive crime information available on a national level.

To qualify for our ranking list, towns must have populations of 15,000 or more that were home to accredited colleges with four-year degrees. This data is sourced from College Scorecard.4 Our ranking excludes for-profit institutions, technical and vocational schools, schools that offer only two-year degrees, and those with fewer than 2,000 students enrolled annually. 

For our ranking, 50% of the score was determined by the number of violent crimes per 1,000. The additional 50% of the score was determined by the number of property crimes per 1,000. We omitted all locations with missing FBI violent crime or property crime data.

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.

We ranked 422 cities this year, compared to 457 cities last year. Both rankings used the same filtering criteria.

We also looked at the COVID-19 vaccination policy for the largest college in each town, but this factor was not part of our ranking. Vaccination requirements were individually sourced from each school’s website.

For more information, 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.

Interesting findings

Let’s highlight some statistics and trends surrounding the safest college towns in America this year: 

  • Massachusetts had the most college towns on our safety list with 10 towns. California had the second most with 6, Illinois had 5, and Connecticut had 4.
  • Madison, NJ, ranks third on our list and is home to Fairleigh Dickinson University (Florham Campus). The town stands out for having had just one reported violent incident.
  • The average violent crime rate among the 10 most dangerous college towns is 16.0 incidents per 1,000 people. That’s 16 times higher than the average violent crime rate in the 50 safest college towns.
  • The 50 safest college towns have a low property crime rate average of 8.2 incidents per 1,000. The average property crime rate for the 10 most dangerous college towns is nearly 8 times higher at 62.8 per 1,000 people.
  • Paying to be safe: The average cost of in-state tuition for the largest schools in the top 50 safest college towns is $27,061. The average tuition jumps up to $32,428 for out-of-state students.

Changes from last year

  • The safest college towns stayed consistent. However, Cypress, CA (home of Cypress College) is a newcomer this year.
  • Northfield, MN, home to St. Olaf College, moved up 24 spots from last year’s list. Northfield decreased its violent crime rate by over half (1.4 to 0.6) and lowered its property crime rate from 9.7 to 7.3.
  • The 50 safest college towns dropped slightly from a property crime rate of 8.6 incidents per 1,000 people in 2020 down to 8.2 in 2021.
  • The violent crime rate among the 50 safest college towns slightly increased in violent crime. In 2019 and 2020, the rate was 0.9 incidents per 1,000 people. In 2021, it rose to one incident in 2021.

View the complete 2021 State of Safety report.

Should college students feel safe on campus?

The risk of physical danger, let alone murder, is low compared to the possibility of someone messing with your stuff. The latest FBI data on crimes reported by University Law shows that students are far more likely to become a victim of a property crime than a violent crime on campus:

  • The risk of students becoming victims of violent crimes on a college campus is 1 in 3,202.
  • The risk of students becoming victims of murder on a college campus is 1 in 1,326,884.
  • The risk of students becoming victims of a property crime on a college campus is 1 in 192.
  • Since 2010, the murder rate has risen by 11.6%, but total violent crime is down by 3.8%, and property crime is down by 24% for the same period.5,6,7
What about sex-related safety and crime on campus?

The FBI doesn’t track sex-related crimes in its Uniform Crime Report. But RAINN, The nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, provides key statistical insights where possible:8

  • At least 13% of students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.
  • Students are at increased risk during the first few months of their first and second semesters in college.
  • More than 50% of college sexual assaults occur in August, September, October, or November.
  • Among undergraduate students, 26.4% of females and 6.8% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.
  • College-age women are 3–4x more likely to experience sexual violence than all women.
  • Only 20% of female students report sex-related crimes compared to 34% of female non-students the same age.

You can learn more about RAINN’s statistics here to find more resources for sexual violence education, prevention, and rehabilitation.

COVID-19 vaccination requirements on campus

Proof of a COVID-19 vaccine is required for 35 of the top 50 anchor schools on our list. (An anchor school is the largest university found in each of the 50 safest college towns.) 

Other schools (like Brigham Young University-Idaho) don’t require the vaccine. However, some require wearing masks in campus buildings. 

In some states, like Utah, legislators have blocked college vaccination requirements, though ome Utah colleges are planning vaccine requirements for current fall and upcoming spring semesters.

So has enforcing COVID-19 policies kept the coronavirus away from campus? Some schools are reporting fewer infections this year and crediting vaccines:

While most of the top 50 safest colleges require vaccinations, only 4 of the 10 anchor schools for the 10 most dangerous college towns require vaccines.

The most dangerous college town in America

Alexandria, LA welcome sign

(Image source: Wikimedia Commons) 

America’s most dangerous college town is Alexandria, LA, home of Louisiana State University-Alexandria—but what makes it so dangerous?

  • Alexandria has the highest property crime rate out of the hundreds of towns we analyzed (89.6 incidents per 1,000 people).
  • The town reported 15.7 violent crime incidents per 1,000 residents—the fourth highest in the nation.
  • Your risk of being a victim of a violent crime in Alexandria, Louisiana? Nearly 1 in 64. And your risk of being a victim of a property crime? 1 in 11. 
  • There were 9 incidents of murder and non-negligent manslaughter in the town last year. Meanwhile, there were 3,056 incidents of larceny-theft, 892 reported burglaries, and 232 motor vehicle thefts.

The top 50 safest college towns

#1
Milton, Massachusetts
(
No change
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    2,285
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    Curry College
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    $41,230
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates (per 1,000)
    Violent: 0.4 | Property: 2.2

Image source: Instagram @currycollege

Durham, NH
#2
Durham, New Hampshire
(
+4
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    12,101
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    University of New Hampshire-Main Campus
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    $18,879
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates (per 1,000)
    Violent: 0.4 | Property: 2.5

Image source: Facebook @University of New Hampshire

Madison, NJ
#3
Madison, New Jersey
(
No change
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    2,604
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham Campus
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    $44,720
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates (per 1,000)
    Violent: 0.1 | Property: 4.2

Image source: Instagram @fduwhatsnew

#4
Rexburg, Idaho
(
-2
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    38,672
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    Brigham Young University-Idaho
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    $4,208
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates (per 1,000)
    Violent: 0.2 | Property: 4.2

Image source: Facebook @BYU-Idaho

Wellesley, MA
#5
Wellesley, Massachusetts
(
-1
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    4,715
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    Wellesley College
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    $56,052
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates (per 1,000)
    Violent: 0.2 | Property: 4.2

Image source: Facebook @Wellesley College

Berea, OH
#6
Berea, Ohio
(
+4
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    2,925
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    Baldwin Wallace University
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    $33,530
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates (per 1,000)
    Violent: 0.5 | Property: 4.3

Image source: Facebook @Baldwin Wallace University

North Andover, MA
#7
North Andover, Massachusetts
(
+9
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    3,956
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    Merrimack College
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    $43,340
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates (per 1,000)
    Violent: 0.5 | Property: 5.2

Image source: Instagram (@merrimackcollege)

Bristol, RI
#8
Bristol, Rhode Island
(
-3
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    4,358
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    Roger Williams University
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    $36,978
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates (per 1,000)
    Violent: 0.7 | Property: 4.7

Image source: Facebook @Roger Williams University

Lisle, IL
#9
Lisle, Illinois
(
-2
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    2,461
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    $34,290
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    Benedictine University
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates (per 1,000)
    Violent: 0.4 | Property: 6.3

Image source: Instagram @benu1887

Rochester Hills, MI
#10
Rochester Hills, Michigan
(
+1
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    15,236
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    Oakland University
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    Oakland University
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates
    Violent: 0.5 | Property: 6.1

Image source: Instagram (@oaklandu)

Princeton, NJ
#11
Princeton, New Jersey
(
-2
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    5,308
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    Princeton University
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    $52,800
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates (per 1,000)
    Violent: 0.3 | Property: 7.5

Image source: Facebook @Princeton University

Mequon, WI
#12
Mequon, Wisconsin
(
+3
)
  • Circle Population
    Undegrad population
    3,028
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    Concordia University-Wisconsin
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    $30,352
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates (per 1,000)
    Violent: 0.6 | Property: 7.2

Image source: Instagram (@cuwisconsin)

Beverly, MA
#13
Beverly, Massachusetts
(
+1
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    2,996
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    Endicott College
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    $34,200
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates
    Violent: 1.1 | Property: 4.9

Image source: Instagram (@endicottcollege)

Northfield, MN
#14
Northfield, Minnesota
(
+24
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    5,098
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    St. Olaf College
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    $49,710
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates
    Violent: 0.6 | Property: 7.3

Image source: Instagram (@stolafcollege)

West LaFayette, IN
#15
West Lafayette, Indiana
(
+3
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    62,482
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    Purdue University
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    $9,992
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates (per 1,000)
    Violent: 0.7 | Property: 7.3

Image source: Instagram (@lifeatpurdue)

Smithfield, RI
#16
Smithfield, Rhode Island
(
+7
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    3,232
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    Bryant University
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    $45,395
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates (per 1,000)
    Violent: 0.3 | Property: 8.9

Image source: Facebook @Bryant University

Moon Township, PA
#17
Moon Township, Pennsylvania
(
+5
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    3,735
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    Robert Morris University
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    $31,200
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates
    Violent: 0.5 | Property: 8.1

Image source: Instagram (@robertmorrisuniversity)

Edwardsville, IL
#18
Edwardsville, Illinois
(
-5
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    10,339
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    $12,219
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates
    Violent: 0.6 | Property: 7.7

Image source: Facebook @Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Blacksburg, VA
#19
Blacksburg, Virginia
(
-2
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    29,196
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    $13,691
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates (per 1,000)
    Violent: 1.1 | Property: 6.1

Image source: Facebook @Virginia Tech

Charleston, IL
#20
Charleston, Illinois
(
-8
)
  • Circle Population
    Undergrad population
    4,577
  • Circle Property
    Largest school
    Eastern Illinois University
  • Circle Dollar
    Tuition/year
    $11,989
  • Circle Gun
    Crime rates
    Violent: 1.6 | Property: 4.2

Image source: Instagram (@eiu)

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.

2021 ranking
City
State
Largest school
Violent crime rate
Property crime rate
Tuition per year
2020 ranking
21WillimanticCTEastern Connecticut State University1.26.7$11,84635
22MoragaCASaint Mary's College of California1.36.9$49,1888
23BridgewaterMABridgewater State University2.23.5$10,73225
24CanyonTXWest Texas A & M University0.99.4$8,13521
25PullmanWAWashington State University1.27.9$11,84140
26EastonMAStonehill College1.75.8$44,42034
27ElmhurstILElmhurst University0.710.2$37,75419
28WaukeshaWICarroll University0.99.5$32,85039
29Thousand OaksCACalifornia Lutheran University0.710.9$44,38236
30MoscowIDUniversity of Idaho0.313.3$8,30447
31MarquetteMINorthern Michigan University1.38.8$11,25530
32WheatonILWheaton College0.811.5$37,70028
33New RochelleNYIona College1.29.7$40,17224
34River FallsWIUniversity of Wisconsin-River Falls0.811.7$8,03760
35MidlandMINorthwood University1.39.4$28,08027
36WalthamMABrandeis University1.68.2$51,83049
37CamarilloCACalifornia State University-Channel Islands0.811.7$6,80246
38South HadleyMAMount Holyoke College1.58.8$52,25856
39AmherstMAUniversity of Massachusetts-Amherst2.54.4$16,38951
40NicevilleFLNorthwest Florida State College0.712.8$3,13352
41IrvineCAUniversity of California-Irvine Brandman University0.613.1$13,72729
42CypressCACypress College1.112.1$1,142N/A
43MiddletownCTWesleyan University0.813.3$57,33437
44BlufftonSCUniversity of South Carolina Beaufort1.98.9$10,73063
45FairfieldCTSacred Heart University0.515.1$43,07045
46DanburyCTWestern Connecticut State University1.112.3$11,34458
47LaramieWYUniversity of Wyoming1.89.7$5,58141
48KentOHKent State University at Kent1.013.2$10,60253
49MedfordMATufts University2.09.2$58,57832
50San MarcosCACalifornia State University-San Marcos2.09.7$7,71757
Light Bulb
More safe 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.

10 most dangerous college towns in America

2021 ranking
City
State
Largest school
Violent crime rate
Property crime rate
Tuition per year
1AlexandriaLALouisiana State University-Alexandria15.789.6$6,668
2MemphisTNUniversity of Memphis1961.3$9,912
3SpringfieldMOMissouri State University-Springfield15.277.9$7,588
4MonroeLAUniversity of Louisiana at Monroe17.765.8$8,974
5DetroitMIWayne State University19.743$13,517
6Little RockARUniversity of Arkansas at Little Rock15.261.2$9,544
7BaltimoreMDUniversity of Maryland-Baltimore County18.643.1$12,028
8GreenwoodSCLander University14.955.2$11,700
9FlorenceSCFrancis Marion University11.966.3$11,160
10SpartanburgSCUniversity of South Carolina-Upstate11.964.9$11,558

Alexandria, Memphis, Monroe, Detroit, Little Rock, Baltimore, and Greenwood also ranked among the most dangerous metro areas for 2020.

How to make a safe home anywhere

Whether you’re living on campus, in the town nearby, or at home to save some cash, you can always find ways to be a little safer and more secure. 

Even busy college students can use these security solutions:

Checklist
Get a home security system

Whether you're a parent with a child in college, or a college student, check out our picks for the best home security systems—and find out which companies we recommend for every budget and lifestyle.

Related articles on SafeWise

Sources

  1. Christopher P. Krebs, Ph.D.; Christine H. Lindquist, Ph.D.; Tara D. Warner, M.A.; Bonnie S. Fisher, Ph.D.; Sandra L. Martin, Ph.D.; Office of Justice Programs, “The Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) Study,” Decemer 2007. Accessed October, 26, 2021.
  2. FBI, “Overview of Preliminary Uniform Crime Report, January–June, 2020,” September 15, 2020. Accessed October 26, 2021.
  3. FBI, “Crime in the United States.” Accessed October 26, 2021.
  4. CollegeScorecard.ed.gov, “College Scorecard Data.” Downloaded August 11, 20201. Updated August 2, 2021. Accessed October 26, 2021.
  5. FBI, “Murder in the United States.” Accessed October 26, 2021.
  6. FBI, “ Violent Crime in the United States.” Accessed October 26, 2021.
  7. FBI, “Property Crime in the United States.” Accessed October 26, 2021.
  8. RAINN.org, “​​Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics.” Accessed October 26, 2021.

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Trevor Wheelwright
Written by
Trevor Wheelwright
Trevor’s written about your money, your life topics for over six years. His work has been featured on Forbes, RealSimple, USA Today, MSN, BusinessInsider, Entrepreneur, PCMag, and CNN. When he’s not researching and writing, you can find him around Salt Lake City, Utah, snapping photos of mountains and architecture or seeking out some good tunes and friendly faces.

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

  • Willimantic has been hosting the 3rd Thursday event on Main Street for years, as well as the 4th of July BoomBox Parade; I have attended these events numerous times and have never seen, nor read about or heard of, any violence or violent crime at these events.

    1. Why does ECSU tell students during orientation that it is not safe to walk to town alone, and that you should always have a “buddy”.

  • So, is this analysis ONLY for ‘cities’? How about small towns with LARGE university campuses?

    When you use the criteria “… cities needed to exceed 15,000 residents and be home to an accredited college that offered four-year degrees.” is that population BEFORE or AFTER the students arrive? Mansfield (Storrs) easily exceeds the 15,000 criteria (if counting the student population) yet it is curiously omitted from the list.

    I see Willimantic CT on the list (ECSU) whose campus is in Willimantic, which is part of the larger town of Windham. I did 4 years of high school in Willimantic and I would not have considered it to be an exceptionally safe community then, and almost 50 years later I still would not consider it to be an exceptionally safe community.

    Seems like a somewhat selective choice of data.

    1. A quick Google search comes up with this: Willimantic crime statistics report an overall downward trend in crime based on data from 17 years with violent crime decreasing and property crime decreasing. Based on this trend, the crime rate in Willimantic for 2018 is expected to be lower than in 2016.

      The city violent crime rate for Willimantic in 2016 was lower than the national violent crime rate average by 65.98% and the city property crime rate in Willimantic was lower than the national property crime rate average by 46.72%.

      In 2016 the city violent crime rate in Willimantic was lower than the violent crime rate in Connecticut by 40.52% and the city property crime rate in Willimantic was lower than the property crime rate in Connecticut by 27.77%.

      1. The stats are what they are and I won’t attempt to dispute them.

        My observation is based solely on my personal experiences in the city during my HS years and my currently senior years. There may be a bit of personal bias in my observations.

    2. The criteria for this report was based on population, not the definition of “town” or “city,” which can vary depending on which part of the country you are in. The reason Mansfield was not included in this year’s report is because FBI data was not available for 2016.

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