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Caresa Alexander Randall
Aggie Ice Cream is a popular spot on the campus of Utah State University.

Utah’s safest college is Utah State University. Or is it Brigham Young University? But wait, local college-bound students may look farther north and see Brigham Young University-Idaho as an even safer alternative.

Don't worry, all that could change—because it frequently does. Especially when considering the varying results of different annual “safe college” rankings and their respective methodology. And the rankings can be as fluid, as subjective and as diverse as those for college football or basketball teams.

The most recent college safety rankings were released earlier this week—the “Top 100 Safest Colleges in America,” by the National Council for Home Safety and Security, a national trade association comprised of licensed alarm installers, contractors and other similar trade groups.

Utah colleges listed on the top 100 ranking include Utah State University at No. 13, Brigham Young University at No. 25 and Utah Valley University at No. 32.

Brigham Young University-Idaho, of Rexburg, Idaho, is ranked second overall, sandwiched between the top-ranked University of New Hampshire and No. 3 Oakland University of Rochester, Michigan. The University of Massachusetts and Washington State University round out the top five.

The Alarm.com rankings are based on a grading metric involving numbers from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting and the National Center for Education Statistics. Scores for the more than 2,000 four-year colleges and universities with a student population over 15,000 were weighted:

  • 22.5 percent given to criminal crimes (murder, manslaughter, sexual assault, robbery, burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson)
  • 22.5 percent for VAWA incidents (Violence Against Women Acts, such as domestic violence, dating violence and stalking)
  • 5 percent for arrests such as illegal weapons, drug law violations and liquor law violations
  • 50 percent for other local crimes.
The rankings also categorize incidents on location—off-campus, on campus or in student housing.

But a quick internet glance shows similar “safe college” rankings from other entities over the past year or so, and all with varied results.

Last fall, Collegechoice.net—an online service helping students and families find colleges and offering all sorts of rankings and lists—offered its “50 Safest Large Colleges and Universities in America” list, based on a three-year study with “grades” given on general safety, anti-discrimination, women’s safety, party scene and fire safety.

In that ranking, BYU came out 6th overall, with Weber State 10th and Utah State 11th.

The top five were Thomas Edison State University (Trenton, New Jersey); CUNY Barach College (Manhattan, New York); University of Houston-Downtown; University of Massachusetts Boston; and Columbia (Missouri) College.

Also last fall, Safewise.com—an online site that provides home safety and security reviews, comparisons and advice—published its annual “30 Safest College Towns in America.” No Utah university-hosting city made the cut, but BYU-Idaho’s Rexburg, Idaho, was ranked at No. 6.

Meanwhile, the variance from one year to the next is obvious in safe college rankings offered by Niche.com, an online review site that uses national data and student reviews to base its methodology to rank public schools, colleges and neighborhoods in a number of different topics and categories.

BYU earned Niche.com's top billing among its "25 Safest College Campuses in America" in the website's 2016 rankings, released in January 2016, while BYU-Idaho came in at No. 10. (Business Insider ran the Niche.com’s list last year and erroneously was credited as the source of the ranking by some media, including the Deseret News.)

A year later, a different BYU took top honors on the Niche.com "25 Safest College Campuses in America," with BYU-Idaho receiving the No. 1 ranking.

So, if your favorite college is or isn’t listed on a safe college ranking, you've now been warned—that could easily change in the near future.