Reader’s Digest Campus Safety Survey

See how America's top colleges and universities ranked for campus safety and security.


Reader’s Digestranked America’s top colleges and universities from lower to higher reported crime rates. Compare colleges and see if your college falls in the “lower,” “moderate,” or “higher” category.
View or Print the RD Campus Crime Rankings

General Methodology

Reader’s Digest, using a database compiled by Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), examined reported crime per student at the main campuses of 285 colleges and universities for 2004 and 2005 (the latest years available). IRE’s data comes from the Department of Education (DOE), which compiles information submitted by schools nationwide as part of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure Act. Reader’s Digest then ranked the institutions in three categories (lower, moderate and higher reported crime), weighing severe offenses like murder and rape more heavily. (The complete list and methodology appear here for your perusal.)

We caution readers that our findings are not necessarily indicative of how dangerous a campus may be. The DOE data only cover reported crime (not arrests or convictions), which is self-reported on college campuses. Also, many factors—such as the school’s size, how accessible it is to the public, the percentage of commuter students, location (urban vs. rural) and the presence of a capable police force or tight security—can affect whether criminal allegations are identified. The Reader’s Digest ranking can be used most effectively when comparing schools with similar demographics, such as two mid-sized, suburban, private colleges. For those who have narrowed their college choices, DOE offers a useful comparative tool with updated data at:

Calculating the Crime Index
The IRE data provides crime statistics in 9 crime categories for 2004 and 2005 (the latest years available).

We time averaged the data to calculate for the average count of crimes at each school over that period.

Then we divided by the school’s enrollment to make the cross-school comparisons more comparable; and defined this per-capita variable for crime category j for school m as Crime_mj.

For each crime category, we standardized the data by subtracting the sample mean for crime category j and dividing through by the sample standard deviation for crime category j; Define Crime_mj = School M’s Score on crime category j. Define X_j = Sample Average on crime category j. Define SD_j = Sample Standard Deviation on Category j. School M’s standardized Score on crime category J = (Crime_mj-X_j)/SD_j.

So, for each of the 285 schools for each of the 9 crime categories, we have this measure of the standardized crime level. Next we used the index weights of: .3*murder + .15*manslaughter +
.125*forcible sex offense + .1*non-forcible sex offense + .1*robbery + .1*aggravated assault + .05*burglary + .025*vehicle theft + .05*arson.

Finally, we sort the “Index” and this yields the rankings of schools from least to most reported crime.

Professor Matthew E. Kahn performed the statistical analysis.

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