Suppose for a moment that you’re OK with attending a school with an urban or suburban campus and that you can afford it. For undergrad, many people will at least care somewhat about municipal issues that go way beyond security on campus and, provided the school isn’t like Vanderbilt and you have to resort to on-campus housing the first four years (in the event you double-major, change majors too late or other forces majeures), cost of off-campus living. Some students may be scared away from a school because something nasty recently happened in the city that school is in.
Case in point: St. Louis vis-à-vis WUSTL. Many prospective students at Washington University in St. Louis, most of them being out-of-state, or otherwise not living in the Illinois part of Greater St. Louis (in fact, about 90% of WUSTL’s undergraduate student body comes from outside Missouri or Greater St. Louis), and then I would not assume that the average applicant to WUSTL would actually know anything about how the Ferguson riots really affected the school (i.e. almost no on-campus effect) despite knowing that Ferguson is a town in the Greater St. Louis area. The truth is that the Ferguson riots have portrayed St. Louis, perhaps exceedingly, as a racist, violent city.
The thought process of many a WUSTL applicant, even some prospective graduate students, is, if they happened to consider WashU when the riots were ongoing: “WashU is in St. Louis. St. Louis has a lot of riots going on! WashU is unsafe”…
Sure, all the nasty stuff that happens in St. Louis have affected Saint Louis University’s applicant pool as well, but SLU, which is a school with a more regional profile, draws more students from Missouri or southwest Illinois than WUSTL does and is less affected by the naïveté of the prospective students vis-à-vis the social situation in St. Louis. In fact, it really took the girl I mentioned in an earlier post a better understanding of what really went on in the Forest Park neighborhood to put WUSTL back on her application list.
So, other than cost of off-campus living and campus security, what other municipal aspects are taken in account in a college decision?