We're Standing By Our Controversial List Of 'America's Most Dangerous Colleges' — Here's Why

ucla campus

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

It seems all of Los Angeles is up in arms over the Most Dangerous Colleges list we published last week.This list ranked colleges by the number of crimes committed on or near campus, as reported by the FBI.

UCLA and UC-Riverside, among others on the list, complained about our using data that was not limited to on-campus crime. The FBI crime data on which we based our ranking is compiled from crime data submitted by colleges across the country. Some colleges probably are more aggressive in reporting crimes on neighbouring non-campus areas. And some colleges do not participate in the survey at all.

The schools that complained, including UCLA, demanded that we rank college crime instead by data compiled through the Clery Act, which can be sorted to count only crimes that occur on campus. Although looking only at crimes that occur on campus seems like a strangely limited perspective–students do, occasionally, venture off campus–we agreed to crunch the numbers based on this report.

Based on this alternate methodology, UCLA and UC-Riverside are once again among the 25 most dangerous colleges in America.

In fact, the new list contains many of the same schools as the original.

We take this to suggest that both lists are pretty good at identifying dangerous schools.

The methodology: We looked at Clery’s data for on-campus crimes from 2007-2009, the latest years for which complete data was available. Schools were ranked by violent crime per capita and by property crime per capita, counting murder/nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault for violent crimes, and burglary, motor vehicle theft, arson for property crimes. These rankings were combined with violent crime weighted four times higher to produce the final ranking. Our ranking based on the FBI data was similar, except that it looked at 2008-2011 and it also included the data on larcenies.

Update: We have corrected the Clery ranking, which had a few of the top 25 schools in the wrong order. We have also recalculated the numbers for New Mexico State after having been informed of an error in the FBI and Clery databases.

First, here’s the ranking based on FBI data:

dangerous colleges

Note: Although per capita data was used to determine the rankings, we are displaying actual average crime numbers for simplicity. 

Now here’s the ranking based on Clery on-campus crime data (Note: property crime numbers are much lower because they do not include larceny):

dangerous colleges


You’ll notice plenty of similarity between the lists — which is remarkable considering that these lists involve thousands of schools, different data, different years, and different criteria.

Although UCLA dropped from #1 on the FBI list to #19, what’s notable is that it remained within the top 1 per cent of dangerous colleges.

Meanwhile the other most vocal critic, UC Riverside, actually moved higher from #24 to #20. Other schools appearing on both top 25 lists include UC Berkeley, Duke, MIT, Vanderbilt, SUNY Buffalo, North Carolina A&T, and Southern Illinois-Carbondale.

Other schools from the FBI list also appear relatively high on Clery:  University of Southern Alabama (#29), University of New Mexico (#30), San Diego State (#32), Western Illinois (#33), Northern Arizona (#39), LSU (#41), Indiana State (#43), Florida State (#45), Florida A&M (#53), Cincinnati (#65), New Mexico State (#78), Rutgers (#114), Cal State Fresno (#136), Arkansas State (#155), Georgia Tech (#189), and Ball State (#252).

Why is Ball State so low? Turns out Ball State saw significantly fewer violent crimes from 2007-2009 than it did from 2008-2011. Likewise Georgia Tech is low on the Clery list because this list doesn’t include the particularly violent year in 2011.

In short, the results are remarkably similar considering that they come from different years and different sets of data.

Such similar results suggest that both lists are fairly accurate at identifying dangerous colleges.

Which list is best? As the FBI and the Department of Education are both reputable data sources, and the two lists produce similar results, we believe that both are valid. At the same time both lists are imperfect for reasons discussed above, which makes it valuable to look at them together.

In conclusion, we are glad to provide a second opinion, but we also reaffirm our confidence in the original list of America’s most dangerous colleges.

Now check out the most dangerous cities in America >

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