This study relies heavily on the U.S. Department of Education’s Campus Safety and Security statistics. After a consideration of VAWA rates (crimes pertaining to the Violence Against Women Act), sexual assault rates, and each university’s safety-related programs, the following colleges emerged as the safest institutions for female students.
1. Northern Michigan University
Visitors to the quaint northern beach town, Lake Superior, find themselves sinking into a not-so-false sense of security, and NMU sets the tone. Measures like the Safe Walk program help protect students, while classes like Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) teach students how to protect themselves. This twofold approach to crime prevention has led to a VAWA rate of only 0.88 per 10,000 students—one of the lowest in the country. With the safety piece taken care of, you’re free to worry about the little things, like that famously cold Great Lake water.
2. University of California-San Marcos
You don’t have to be secluded to be safe. Cal-San Marcos, just up the road from San Diego, protects their students through a holistic approach to well-being. Initiatives like CougarWatch, a campus-wide neighborhood watch program, provide front-line protection to students. It’s their layers of support for female students, however, that set UCSM apart. It starts with its Women’s Center, an entity dedicated to female empowerment and leadership. This feminist figurehead leads the charge for events like Domestic Violence Awareness month that dot the school’s calendar. With this boosted appreciation for female dignity, it’s no surprise that their VAWA score is less than 1 incident per 10,000 students. Perhaps those attitudes rub off on the community as well because San Marcos happens to be one of the safest urban college towns in the country.
3. Brigham Young University-Idaho
This paragon of campus student safety wasn’t going to stay off this list for long. BYU-Idaho, located in the equally secure town of Rexburg, has been setting the safety standard for years. Their public safety office goes above and beyond to assist those in vulnerable situations. Locked your keys in your car? Uncomfortable walking somewhere alone? University Public Safety has you covered. The Rexburg Police Department even chips in by offering RAD classes that empower women through self-defense. When it comes to safety, there may be no better town-campus combination.
4. Tufts University
It likely comes as no surprise for a place so synonymous with academic excellence, but Tuft’s is especially effective at leveraging education to keep students safe. First-year students are exposed to a range of experiences—from Healthy Living Week to presentations on social health—that prime them for safe and independent living. Their Center for Awareness, Resources, and Education (CARE) also provides education and counseling services related to sexual health. Cutting-edge efforts, like a bystander intervention course, ensure that students take an active role in crime recognition and prevention. Even in a place with as much higher education as Boston, these efforts on behalf of women’s health are especially progressive.
5. Virginia Tech
This classic big college-small town combination is all the more ideal for its culture of safety. Here, “student well-being” is more than just a catchphrase; it’s a commitment that the University consistently upholds. Every newcomer to campus takes a Sexual Assault Prevention course, and their InclusiveVT initiative lays the groundwork for respectful relationships between students. The result of these prevention practices is an especially low rate of sexual violence. As a bonus, if you think that healthy living is an important aspect of long-term safety (we certainly do), Virginia Tech’s student body is rated as one of the fittest in the country.
6. West Texas A&M
For a campus experience as idyllic as its canyon-covered scenery, look no further than this treasure of the Texas Panhandle. It takes a lot of work to preserve the level of peace offered at West Texas A&M, but the University Police is always up to the task. Their array of services covers all the safety bases. Presentations on sexual assault prevention, crime prevention, and Domestic/Dating violence are consistently held; and the daringly-named Operation Dark Star keeps lighting conditions flawless. UWT A&M is also a Start by Believing Campus, which means it’s part of a campaign to legitimize the stories of sexual assault victims. All this makes for a place where women can find peace, respect, and more than a few views of the unspoiled desert.
7. Meredith College
Perfect safety might be impossible, but Meredith—an all-female school in Raleigh, NC—gives impossible a run for its money. From 2016–2018, the population of nearly 2,000 students experienced only one crime, with no instances of sexual violence or domestic violence. Don’t attribute this to their all-female student population either. Plenty of single-gender schools struggle with crime—Meredith is the exception to the rule. A major part of this achievement is their seemingly omnipresent campus police force that closes campus at eleven o’clock every night. Apart from this, every member of this small liberal arts college is expected to embrace their role in promoting community achievement and welfare. The result is a campus as safe as any in the country.
8. Clemson University
Football isn’t the only category where this South Carolina school is leading the country. Crime statistics for this 24,000-student school would be impressive for an institution half its size, with only three instances of domestic violence and five instances of dating violence in 2018. This lack of crime against women stems from more than just the good vibes from football victories. The campus police force favors a community-based approach that involves working with small groups of students on crime prevention practices. They’ll even tailor a safety curriculum to meet each group’s needs. Common Sense self-defense practices and RAD training also suggest that, like the football team, students are taught sound defense.
9. Colorado State University-Pueblo
Boasting a nearly nonexistent rate of VAWA offenses, and not a single instance of rape in 2018, this southern Colorado best-kept secret is gaining much-deserved national attention for its grace and respect toward women. CSU-Pueblo can’t separate itself from the city of over 100,000 people, so it embraces the outlying community. There’s actually a sheriff’s office on campus from which officers make frequent campus and dormitory walk-throughs. These community-driven safety practices free students to go out and experience the surrounding hiking trails and ski slopes, knowing they’ll always have a safe place to return to.
10. Fairfield University
This small, private university’s 29-employee Public Safety Department provides an outsized security presence, which helps explain its incredibly low VAWA rate of about 2 per 10,000 students. Fairfield, located in Fairfield, Connecticut, places emphasis on women’s health with RAD classes and S.M.A.R.T., a dedicated response team for sexual assault and misconduct. Students gain a sense of responsibility, too, as orientation programs encourage crime prevention awareness. Residence halls are even expected to create and carry out their own plans for raising the school’s safety standards. This culture of accountability makes for a campus that protects and values women in every educational context.