College Admissions Season: Which Colleges Are Not Safe From Street Crime?
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An iSteve commenter asks:

OT can anyone from Philadelphia area tell me about the area the University of Pennsylvania is located. It’s in West Philadelphia. How dangerous is it? How near are the blacks? A granddaughter has decided on U Penn engineering program. She’s really small perfect target for thugs and of course won’t have her brother with her. [She has a fraternal twin brother.]

With the crime rate up during the “racial reckoning,” it’s worth asking for comments on the safety of the streets around colleges that attract out-of-towners, such as Penn in the Ivy League.

I’ll begin with my impression of SoCal colleges. Keep in mind that I’m 6’4″ and I don’t get much hassled.

I go to UCLA for doctors’ appointments, so I can say with some confidence: yeah, it’s fine. It’s not as ultrasafe as Pepperdine in Malibu, but Westwood remains a Really Nice Neighborhood. Granted, it’s not as fashionable as when I got my MBA there in 1980-82, when Westwood was The Place for under-30s in L.A. I suspect a fair number of UCLA students back then said, “When I make some money, I’m going to move back to Westwood.” And they did, but now they are 60 years old.

Caltech in Pasadena should be good (I go to various live performances there every couple of years), and so are the various Claremont Consortium colleges (Pomona, Harvey Mudd, etc.) farther east in the San Gabriel Valley.

Cal Arts (for animation) in exurban Santa Clarita should be fine.

Chapman U. in Orange County is good, and UC Irvine in ultra-planned Irvine is suburban utopia.

UC San Diego in La Jolla is rich beach suburb utopia. The suburban Catholic U. of San Diego is a fantasyland of Catholic architecture. (San Diego has the lowest homicide rate of the 50 biggest cities in the country.)

UC Santa Barbara in Goleta is rich beach exurb utopia. Cal State San Luis Obispo is rural small city utopia.

I talked to a UC Riverside professor last fall who had glowing things to say about his school, but I’ve never been there.

UC Santa Cruz used to have a lot of serial killers a couple of generations ago, but otherwise it's hippie utopia. I’ve never been there but I believe UC Davis is cow town utopia. UC Merced sounds dull and depressing.

That leaves UC Berkeley, which I’ve never been to.

I presume Stanford is even more All-Galactic than when I visited it in 1974.

OK, so that leaves the Big Question Mark for out of staters: USC, which is about three miles south of Downtown L.A.

It’s difficult to keep straight in one’s mind, but among the major acronym colleges in L.A., UCLA is basically Beverly Hills West, while USC traditionally was always Watts North.

DTLA, fortunately, is a lot more populated than in the past, and gentrification has proceeded south toward USC, displacing Skid Row away from the southerly Staples Center (or whatever it is called these days: the Get Rich Quick Center?) up toward the northeast part of DTLA. USC is clearly better than in Bloods vs. Crips 1990, when it wasn’t all that bad. In a few decades the areas around it should be well-gentrified. But, I’m not an expert on the area right now, so I invite comments.

I haven’t been back to Rice U. in Houston since 1990, but then it was in a nice urban zone three miles southwest of downtown.

Among Ivy League colleges, Harvard seemed fine, although the campus is less superb than you might expect. Penn State is fine. Cornell is fine. I’ve walked up to Columbia from the south during the Bloomberg Years and felt safe, but I don’t know about lately. NYU in Greenwich Village had a very low urban crime rate.

A big question to consider is how far-ranging are the campus police. For example, a commenter has asserted that on the south side of Chicago, the University of Chicago police are the strong right arm of God and that wherever they are allowed to police off-campus is pretty safe. Thus, Barack Obama, a not imprudent man, always chose to live within the zone where the U of C campus police rather than the Chicago PD are supreme. Similarly, I’ve heard that Tulane imposes non-chaos around a part of New Orleans surrounding the campus.

The U. of Chicago, like Yale, has also bought up a lot of the surrounding ‘hood and gentrified it. (It’s good to have a huge endowment.) I’m trying to remember if Penn, which is rich but not Yale Rich, has done the same thing.

So, with lots of families needing to decide by April 30 which college to select, please comment on your experiences and informed impressions of the locations of colleges that are under consideration by out of towners.

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