Reader’s Digest Campus Safety Survey

See how America’s top colleges and universities ranked for campus safety and security. We did a comprehensive survey of college

See how America’s top colleges and universities ranked for campus safety and security. We did a comprehensive survey of college campuses on important safety measures ranging from dorm rooms with self-locking doors to around-the-clock security and emergency plans. The results are in! See how the schools ranked and learn how we came up with grades for each of the colleges and universities.

View or Print the RD Campus Safety Survey Results

General Methodology

Reader’s Digest invited 291 top colleges and universities to participate in a survey to see how well prepared they were to handle various safety and security issues. 135 agreed; the questionnaire and results, along with our methodology appear here for your review. While the schools are ranked in the exact order of their preparedness, we have given the participants grades of A, B or C.

We realize that each campus is different and that its security needs are unique. Therefore, we believe it is fairer to say that certain schools are excelling in the safety arena; others are doing a good job, and some would benefit by putting more resources into campus safety and security. The Reader’s Digest survey was prepared in consultation with Matthew E. Kahn, Ph.D., Safety on Campus, Inc.

Calculating the RD Safety Index
For each of the 135 schools, 19 variables were used to construct the Safety Preparedness Index. These are the column headings that can been seen on the report card.

For each of these variables, its sample mean and standard deviation was calculated. Define these variables as m_l and s_l. For each of the 19 variables, indexed by l, for each school, indexed by f that we use in the index, we normalize it by calculating (X_fl-m_l)/s_l.

For schools that did not report data for one of the 19 categories, we set their score equal to the normalized average sample score of zero.

In calculating the RD index, Each of the 19 variables receives equal weight. Thus, the safety index is the sum of each school’s normalized score in each of the 19 categories. Sorting this index from highest score to lowest score, yields the RD safety index.

Assistance was also provided by our Market Research Department, and reporters Deirdre M. Casper, Tara Conry, Nancy Coveney, Susan Doremus, Bridget Nelson Monroe and Neena Samuel.

Note: Our printables are PDF files that require Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have Acrobat Reader already installed on your computer, or would like to update to the latest version, visit Adobe’s website to download the software for free.

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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Originally Published in Reader's Digest