By Paul Culp, MA (Oxon.), CFT, GCDF, CCSP

Crimes perpetrated by fraternity members, athletes, and coaches, along with mass shootings, have resulted in some of the most prominent and disturbing stories from the realm of higher education in recent years. Of course these incidents begotten by people who enjoy a certain high status, or who live within a tightly-knit subculture, or who are driven by some sort of mass-destructive mania, represent only a tiny portion of the criminal activity that occurs on college campuses. Quite aside from sordid scandals and ghastly bloodbaths that attract national media attention, crime on college campuses is alive and well, and students and prospective students should be made properly aware of the environment in which they live and study.

crime on college campuses We’re not picking on Harvard, but its sexual assault stats are disconcerting.

According to a report issued last year by the National Council of Education Statistics and drawing on data collected between 2001 and 2015, approximately 27,500 criminal incidents were reported on college campuses in 2015 alone, up from 26,900 the previous year. The report takes account of on-campus criminality at all hours but does not address crimes committed off campus by or against students.

A total of 12,300 burglaries accounted for 45 percent of all reported crime on college campuses. Motor vehicle thefts contributed 3,000 to the total (12 percent), with 2,300 aggravated assaults and a thousand robberies occurring.

Forcible sex offenses have practically taken on the characteristics of a growth industry, increasing from about 2,000 in 2001 to 8,000 in 2015—that’s 29 percent of all crimes—with an astonishing increase of 18 percent from 2014 to 2015. Not until 2015 were institutions asked to categorize offenses, and the statistics from that year include more than 5,000 rapes and nearly 3,000 fondling offenses. Many colleges and universities, goaded by the federal government, have instituted new programs aimed at prevention of sexual assault and providing for enhanced assistance to victims, and it appears that the apparent sharp increase in the number of offenses is due in part to heightened awareness and more conscientious reporting.

Yale in fact ran afoul of the feds for failing to report forcible sex offenses in its crime statistics for 2001 and 2002. A $165,000 fine levied by the Department of Education inspired the university to get back on the scoreboard of infamy by reporting 44 such assaults in 2010-12.

For every 10,000 students,  there were 8.3 burglaries, 5.4 forcible sex offenses, 2.2 motor vehicle thefts, 1.5 aggravated assaults, and 0.7 robberies.

Meanwhile, drugs have nearly caught up with alcohol. While liquor-law violations decreased from about 23.5 per 10,000 students in 2001 to 13.5 in 2015, violations of drug laws reached 13.1 per 10,000 students in 2015, up from 10.2 at the beginning of the century.

Drug-related non-arrest disciplinary referrals, usually resulting from dormitory incidents, were up 134 percent during the reporting period, while for alcohol the increase was “only” 42 percent.

Eight hundred sixty hate crimes were reported, the most common types being vandalism, intimidation, and simple assault. Eighty percent of hate crimes were motivated by race, religion, or sexual orientation, with race topping the list at 40 percent of reported hate crimes.

Oddly, the report does not provide a statistic for murder, other than to say that there were no murders among the hate crimes. However, the Department of Education reports that there were 95 campus homicides between 1999 and 2004 and that murders on college campuses account for less than 1 percent of homicides nationwide.

According to a map created by the Los Angeles law firm of Panish Shea & Boyle and using data gathered by the Department of Education and Forbes, Stanford led the Forbes Top 100 colleges in total crimes in 2010-12 with 517, handily outdistancing UCLA’s 433.

crime on college campuses

The University of Rochester paced the murder stats with only one such offense. Harvard was the leader in forcible sex offenses with 83 (compare with Yale, above), easily surpassing Michigan, whose 64 kept Stanford and its 59 in third place. Cal-Berkeley was the class of the field (in a manner of speaking) in robbery with 41, while Michigan came out on top in aggravated assault with 28. For stolen vehicles, Maryland at College Park was in a class of its own with 105 to Cal Poly’s 51. Stanford joined them on the rostrum with 49. By the way, Harvard also got the trophy for non-forcible sex offenses.

A few months ago, in How to Get the Most Out of a College Visit, we recommended that high school students take those trips during the academic year instead of waiting until summer, and that they read the campus newspaper, because it “is likely to report on crimes and scandals that the institution itself understandably does not publicize but that could affect your informed judgment of it.” While the last thing we want to do is alarm or discourage anyone with a parade of ominous statistics related to crime on college campuses, we think it’s important for students and prospective students to know something about the waters in which they are or might soon be swimming.

One form of crime on college campuses is students not reaching their potential…

Here at The Coaching Educator, we’ve spent the last decade helping students identify the right college, pursue admission, and secure the financial aid they need. We also are proud of our track record as college success coaches who continue to assist students during their college years.

We try to be expert in all things related to college success, and to pass that knowledge on to our student/clients and our readers. The quest for college success begins with the college search process and continues until you take your diploma and shake hands with the president.

To learn more about our philosophy and capabilities, be sure to watch our free webinars, listen to our podcasts, sign up for our four-week College App Boot Camp, consider our Ultimate Programs and our special services for athletes and performing-arts students, and book a consultation to hear what we can do for you and how we do it. Keep reading this blog, and look for us on social media (see links below) as we keep our clients and admirers advised of new developments in our effort to help students get into and succeed at the right school.

Paul Culp is certified as a global career development facilitator and writes about college admissions, college costs, financial aid, and college life in general for The Coaching Educator team. A former journalist and corporate ghostwriter who now operates Shenandoah Proofreading, Editing & Composition Services (SPECS), he has also been a humanities teacher at all levels from university down to sixth grade. Paul has degrees from Oxford University, Jacksonville State University, and Samford University, and also is certified as a fitness trainer.

Images: Map by Panish Shea & Boyle, Harvard police by Alamy

We hope you found “Take Care: Crime on College Campuses” beneficial. We also recommend these articles about college life: 

Culp, Paul. “College, Flu, and You,” The Coaching Educator, 4 October 2018, http://tce.local/2018/10/04/college-flu-and-you/

Culp, Paul. “Getting to Grips With Test Anxiety,” The Coaching Educator, 28 November 2018, http://tce.local/2018/11/28/getting-to-grips-with-test-anxiety/

Culp, Paul. “How to Get the Most Out of a College Visit,” The Coaching Educator, 8 February 2019, http://tce.local/2019/02/08/how-to-get-the-most-out-of-a-college-visit/ 

Culp, Paul. “TCE’s Illustrated Guide to a Healthy Spring Break Trip,” The Coaching Educator, 27 February 2019, http://tce.local/2019/02/27/tces-illustrated-guide-to-a-healthy-spring-break-trip/

Culp, Paul. “These Go to Eleven: Our All-Star Lineup of College Illnesses,” The Coaching Educator, 19 October 2019, http://tce.local/2018/10/09/these-go-to-eleven-our-all-star-lineup-of-college-illnesses/

Culp, Paul. “When Your GPA Isn’t Weighted But You Are: The Freshman 15,” The Coaching Educator, 10 September 2018, http://tce.local/2018/09/10/when-your-gpa-isnt-weighted-but-you-are-the-freshman-15/

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