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50-State Comparison: Postsecondary Campus Safety

State policymakers continue to prioritize campus safety at postsecondary institutions. State policy addressing topics such as campus police forces, sexual misconduct response and prevention policies, and the presence of guns on campuses vary significantly between states. To provide a national perspective on college campus safety policies in these areas, Education Commission of the States researched state statute and regulations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to create this comprehensive resource.

The information here gives an overview and citations of relevant statute and regulations in each state. Please note that it does not reflect how these laws may interact with other state or federal policies, and does not contain information on other possible policy sources, such as postsecondary boards or institutional policies. Education Commission of the States does not provide legal advice on specific circumstances.

Campus Police Forces

Most states allow for the establishment of campus police forces in an effort to create safe campus environments. States vary in how campus police forces are created, and many use statute and regulation to give various agencies authority to create those departments and positions, as captured at the Campus Police Forces link below.

Campus Sexual Misconduct Policies

The most recent national data available from the National Center for Educational Statistics on criminal incidents at postsecondary institutions shows that, between 2009 and 2019, there has been an overall decrease in the number of reported on-campus crimes. However, in the same time period, there has been a large increase in the number of reported forcible sex offenses on campus (see full context of data here).

According to the Association of American Universities’ 2019 Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, 13% of student respondents had experienced nonconsensual sexual contact since they had enrolled. Rates for women, nonbinary students and undergraduate students were significantly higher than for men and graduate/professional students. Many states have enacted policies in statute and/or regulation creating requirements for policies regarding campus sexual misconduct, which are detailed in the corresponding link below.

Guns on College Campuses

Between January 2019 and September 2022, at least 121 bills have been introduced in 27 states regarding guns on postsecondary campuses, nine of which have been enacted in eight states (Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia). States have varied in their policies expressly allowing or prohibiting guns on campus in different contexts. Some states have used statute and regulation to explicitly allow individuals to carry concealed firearms on campus, some explicitly prohibit individuals from possessing a firearm on campus, and some explicitly allow firearms to be on campus if stored in a locked and parked vehicle. These explicit policies as found in state statute and regulation are captured in the Guns on College Campuses link below.

Click on the campus safety topic below for 50-State Comparisons showing how all states and the District of Columbia approach policies in each specific area. View a specific state’s approach by going to the individual state profiles.

50-State Comparisons

  1. Campus Police Forces: This resource describes whether and how states have used statute and/or regulations to allow institutions or systems of higher education to create their own campus police forces.
  2. Campus Sexual Misconduct Policies: This resource captures how states have used statute and/or regulations to provide institutions with additional guidance and/or requirements regarding campus sexual misconduct policy components such as reporting processes, victim support services, and prevention and bystander training.
  3. Guns on College Campuses: This resource includes state statutes and regulations that explicitly allow concealed firearms on campus, explicitly prohibit firearm possession on campus, and statute or regulations that allow guns in locked vehicles on college campuses. In some states, court cases have overturned or altered statewide or systemwide policies related to guns on campus. For the purposes of this 50-State Comparison, Education Commission of the States only looked at policies in state statute or regulations and does not provide legal interpretation of specific circumstances in states with court rulings.

Key Takeaways

  • At least 35 states and the District of Columbia address the creation of police forces and/or employment of police officers in statute and/or regulation.
    • Among those states, at least 29 place authority to create/hire at the institutional entity level, and at least four place that authority at the system-wide entity level.
  • At least 24 states have a campus sexual misconduct policy in statute and/or regulation, and there is significant variation between what those policies contain.
    • At least seven state policies in statute and/or regulation define affirmative consent, and at least three states require institutions to develop their own definition.
    • At least 15 states allow amnesty for individuals reporting instances of campus sexual misconduct.
    • At least 22 states address support systems for victims.
  • States vary greatly in how they address guns on postsecondary campuses in statute and regulation.
    • In at least nine states, statute or regulation explicitly allows individuals to carry concealed firearms on campus; at least two states allow concealed carry if an individual has specific authorization; and at least six states do not allow this practice.
    • At least 26 states explicitly prohibit individuals from possessing a firearm on campus through statute or regulation; at least five additional states prohibit it but with an exception for those who are specifically authorized; and at least five states do not have a prohibition in place.
    • Statute or regulation explicitly allows firearms to be stored in vehicles on institution premises in at least 25 states; this is not allowed in at least five states although exceptions were generally granted for certain circumstances.

Related Resources

  • For additional research, products and blog posts, please see our Issues page on safety.
  • View enacted and vetoed legislation related to postsecondary campus safety on our State Education Policy Tracking resource.
  • View the Criminal Incidents at Postsecondary Institutions section of the National Center for Education Statistics’ Condition of Education resource for additional context and national statistics.  
  • For information about state approaches to safety at the K-12 level, please see the Education Commission of the States 50-State Comparison on K-12 School Safety.


Oct. 5, 2022

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