In the last two decades, a scrutinizing eye has been turned to the important issue of safety on college campuses. From tragic events such as the Virginia Tech shooting which claimed 32 lives to reports that up to 25% of female college students report being raped at some point during their time at an institute of higher education – it’s no wonder young adults and their parents are listing safety along with class size, location, cost, and ranking when it comes to important factors when choosing a college.
Since the Clery Act of 1998, colleges have been required to publish annual crime statistics as readily as they publish their graduation rates and cost of tuition. These crime statistics help parents and students understand the likelihood of being a victim of violence on different college campuses, as well as best practices for keeping themselves safe.
It’s important to note however, that in general college campuses have less violent crimes than cities and towns (except rape which could be more likely to occur on college campus for some women and men because of the drinking, partying, and “hook-up” culture among college students). Of the 19.7 million college students spread across 4,200 campuses in America – there are on average only about 20 homicides each year. To put this in perspective: each year in America there are about 16,000 homicides. Even the rate of suicides is lower among college students than their 18-24 year old non-student peers.
It should also be noted that college campus crime and violence statistics are never going to be completely accurate. Studies shows up to 35% of crimes on campus go unreported and some crimes are inaccurately reported because of malice or confusion on the part of the alleged victim. However, as the saying goes, safety first – so here are some things to look for when choosing a college to ensure a fun and safe four years.
What Prospective Students Should Look for When It Comes to College Safety
Prospective college students and their parents would be naïve to expect to find a college campus completely devoid of crime. They can, however, search through colleges based on their safety ratings in terms of crimes committed per student enrolled, local newspaper articles describing how the college has dealt with previous crimes and violence acts, and what mental health and safety resources are available for students. Most college campuses these days offer a variety of safety resources to student including:
- 24 hour psychiatric services
- Crisis hot lines
- Mental health offices for regular counseling
- Security officers on campus at all times
- Shuttles for students traveling across campus at night or a group-walking service that summons a pre-approved person to walk with a student across campus
- Self-defense classes
- Surveillance systems, license-plate recognition, and other technology designed to deter violence through accountability
- Email and text message alert systems in the event of a campus-wide threat
Prospective students may not think they will ever need to drop in for a counseling session when they first graduate high school, but in truth, college is a very overwhelming experience for many people (20% of college student males and 35% of females report feeling overwhelmed in their first year). Colleges set up to help all students navigate their ever-changing environment throughout their years studying are more likely to find help for students prone to acts of violence or crime, as well as those who just need a helping hand.
Also, prospective students can check out each college’s safety mission to see how the college or university plans on continuing to promote safety and well-being to its students in future years. A safe environment is the cornerstone of a high-quality education. Prospective students should take the time to research the safety of the schools they want to attend as well as educate themselves on how to be safe when they get to campus.