By Christy Mossburg
When choosing which school to attend, safety is rarely a topic of conversation. If it does come up, the topic is often preceded by financials, quality of living and academic options.
When looking for the U.S. school of your dreams, keep this safety information in mind. It can help you find a school that checks every single box on your list, including “peace of mind.”
Federal Laws About Campus Safety
Thanks to the U.S. Department of Education, any college that receives federal funding or assistance has to comply with a specific set of laws that keep students safe on campus. There are also reporting requirements so that anyone reviewing colleges can easily tell how many instances of crime have been reported on that campus.
These laws are part of the Crime Awareness and Security Act of 1990. It has since been amended to include two main sections: The Clery Act and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA). These changes require universities and colleges to disclose statistics, policies, and programs related to dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, as well as hate crimes and clear plans by the institutions on programs to prevent these crimes.
These legislative acts provide basic rules, but colleges have flexibility in how they implement those rules. Briana Boyington, the education digital producer at U.S. News, also shares that each school has different guidelines on how they handle campus alerts for situations such as an active shooter on campus. This is something to ask prospective schools about.
College Safety Stats
A great resource for researching and comparing campus safety, security, and crime reports is the Department of Education’s website on campus safety. This site gives details on who is in charge of campus safety and the number of crime reports filed each year, including the type of crime. Compare your top schools—which ones check all those boxes, including safety?
How to be Safe on College Campuses
Crimes are always possible on campus, regardless of how small the school is or how safe it appears to be. Outside of doing your research and asking the right questions, as we’ve discussed above, being prepared the best way to ensure your safety. Here are a few ways to ensure your safety on a U.S. campus.
Self Defense: Prep for college with a self-defense class. You can find basic self-defense classes at community recreation centers and martial arts schools. Some gyms even offer these. If your local community center doesn’t have them, contact your local police department. They can likely tell you the best places to look for such a class.
Non-Lethal Safety: In addition to self-defense, simple non-lethal weapons can be hugely valuable for students on campus. “The most common self-defense weapons include pepper sprays, batons, and stun guns. Small, portable, and legal in most states, these home defense weapons can be kept in a nightstand or carried in a purse in case of an emergency,” explain security experts for Home Security Super Store.
Safe Nighttime Transportation: A young man or woman walking through a wooded college campus alone at night is not safe. Many colleges now provide transportation for these students, allowing them to get home from class or a party safely.
Most U.S. campuses have upgraded their safety procedures and have precautions in place to ensure all students are able to live comfortably and without fear of theft or attack. With a little research, and remembering to ask the right questions, you can find a college or university that meets all of your needs, safety included.
Christy Mossburg has been writing for 11 years. She writes about family, education and professional writing, and has been featured on a wide variety of lifestyle blogs. She lives in Maryland with her husband and dog, and occasionally her two college-aged kids. You can follow her on Twitter @christymossburg.