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Campus Safety Should be a Consideration in College Selection

By Kathy de Jong, M.S., Independent Educational Consultant

During spring, high school seniors are often weighing their options on where to attend college in the fall. There is a lot to consider such as cost of attendance, financial aid offers, etc., but have you looked into campus safety?

College campuses are not immune to the the violent and non-violent crimes of our society, though colleges do provide added security measures to protect students. Before making the commitment to a particular college, families should have a good grasp on the latest campus and off-campus crime reports and the measures a college has put into place to minimize crime and to support crime victims.  Additionally, students need to understand their role in preventing crimes against themselves before heading off to college.

First, look at the statistics. The good news is that overall, crime rates on college campuses are decreasing. According to a report by the National Center for Educational Statistics, for every 10,000 students, the number of on-campus crimes decreased from 18.4 in 2013 to 17.9 in 2014. Relative to the previous decade, reported crimes decreased 35% between 2001 and 2014.  So generally speaking, college campuses are safer today.

The not so good news is the number of reported forced sex crimes on campuses. During the same period between 2001 and 2014, reported forced sexual assaults increased 205%. The important thing to note is the word “reported”. This increase may in fact be a result of law enforcement efforts to encourage sex crime victims to report incidences and the change in social stigmas associated with sex crimes. Regardless, sexual assaults continue to be a concern.

Overall, burglary made up 50% of on campus crimes, followed by forced sexual assault at 25% and motor vehicle theft at 11%. These numbers may feel scary, but knowing what types of crimes, (and how many) are happening on your chosen campus, may help relieve fears. So where can you find information on campus safety?

Under the Clery Act of 1990, colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs, are required to report on-campus crime statistics. More information about the Clery Act can be found at The Clery Center website.  It has taken time for colleges to take full responsibility for Clery Act requirements and to step up efforts to make security a priority on campus.  Case and point is Florida State University (FSU). In 2009, a review was done on FSU’s compliance with required Clery Act reporting. In this initial findings report, FSU clearly had reporting violations at that time, which required significant remedial actions. Today, FSU creates an annual security report that outlines the crimes on and off campus as well as all of the security measures in place to minimize criminal activity and assist crime victims.  FSU 2016 Annual Security Report (Published for the 2017-2018 school year).   Each college and university that falls under the Clery Act should have this information available on their website (FSU’s is under their police department page) or directly through the university.

While this information should be a must-read for every student and family making a final college selection decision, keep in mind the information contained in the reports may be limited to crimes just on the college campus, and may not tell the full story. Off-campus housing, which may include fraternity and sorority houses, often has higher incidences of crime, plus depending on the location of the campus, other off-campus factors may create a less-safe environment.

Second, students need to take ownership of their own safety. Sometimes students compromise their safety unintentionally. The Huffington Post wrote an article, 10 Safety Tips for Your College Student which provides practical advice. In addition, students should consider basic self-defense, wearable alert devices and mobile apps to help prevent and/or report assaults.  

With proper planning and preparation, college students can minimize their risk of becoming a crime victim. Today, colleges and universities know that safety is a major decision factor for families when choosing a college and for the most part, they are taking the necessary precautions. However, there is no substitute for doing research on a college and having a complete understanding of the security offerings on campus.

 

College in 3-2-1 provides comprehensive college preparation services for high school students including high school course selection, college research and list development, application assistance, essay consultation, and financial aid, extra-curricular and summer enrichment counseling.

 

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