Is The University of Kansas The Best "Safety School" in the Nation?

Located in a great college town with an accetance rate of approximately 92% and highly rated academics, social life, and quality of life, the University of Kansas offers almost everything that one may desire in a college experience.

The Fiske Guide To Colleges 2020 awards the University of Kansas 4 out of 5 pens for academics, 4 out of 5 telephones for social life, and 4 out of 5 stars for quality of life. (All the same ratings given to Vanderbilt University.)

The mid-range ACT scores are a very respectable 23 & 29. (Better than the University of Iowa’s 23 & 28 and better than the University of Utah’s spread of 22 & 29.)

The Fiske Guide To Colleges 2020 shares:

“Despite its conservative Midwest location, the University of Kansas is a welcoming oasis of progressive activism and tolerance.”

“Lawrence is the American college town. Period.”

My simple answer…for a student who want a medium size school with good sports and academics…yes, this is a great safety school option as long as it’s affordable.

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According to the Fiske Guide To Colleges 2020 University of Kansas’ academic strengths include:

Business, health professions, engineering, journalism, architecture, design, education, and social work.

US News lists the follwing majors:

16% Business

12% Health Professions

11% Engineering

9% Communications & Journalism

6% Visual & Performing Arts

Univ. of Kansas has approximately 17,400 full time undergraduate students of whom almost 66% are residents. (According to Fiske Guide, KU attracts a lot of out-of-state students from the Chicago area.)

The University of Kansas offers scholarships to those who apply & are accepted to the University Honors Program. Otherwise out-of-state tuition is about $27,500 plus room & board.

Major construction projects, including new student apartments, new student union, and a new science building were completed in 2018.

The University of Kansas offers big-time college sports & a lot of school spirit. Well known for the highly successful basketball program.

It cannot be a safety for those who would find it unaffordable, such as most out-of-state students (even with the maximum estimated merit money that the net price calculator suggests for 4.0 HS GPA and 800/800 SAT).

I would argue for Iowa. Many more highly rated graduate and professional programs (eg, law, medicine, pharmacy, nursing, creative writing, fine arts) and these are the basis for a University’s reputation. Award winning college newspaper. You get the reflected glory of more than 100 years as a Big Ten university which puts you in solid academic company. Also a great college town in Iowa City, lots of Chicagoland undergrads, fun nightlife and Greek scene, etc. Jayhawk basketball is great, but Hawkeye football weekends are the bomb!

It’s only a safety if they meet full need. Do they?

“Meet full need” colleges can, of course, define “need” however they want, and their definitions may not result in affordability for all family financial situations (particularly divorced parent situations).

While KU is a great school, and I really like Iowa, I would make the argument for ASU being the best safety school in the country. It’s a really big school, that admits 85% of applicants. But it has excellent academics, with a top ranked undergraduate business school, very good engineering, well regarded journalism, and for top students, perhaps the #1 ranked Honors college in the country in Barrett. (KU has a very good honors college too). It’s undergraduate teaching is ranked #10 in US News. And of all the schools Silicon Valley recruits from, ASU is ranked #10.

ASU is resource rich, has even better athletics than KU (football, not basketball), with a D1 ice hockey team. ASU has a very good social life (although not as much a party school as before), and is in a major metro area, which means more opportunities in business and politics (the state capitol being there). President Michael Crow is widely regarded as the best university president in the country.

Not to mention that ASU for the fourth year in a row is ranked by US News as the most innovative university in the country, ahead of Stanford and MIT.

And ASU gives lots of financial aid for both in state and OOS students too.

Since I mentioned the Fiske Guide To Colleges 2020 ratings for the University of Kansas–which are identical to those assessed for Vanderbilt University (all 4s out of 5)–I will share the ratings for the University of Iowa & for Arizona State University.

The University of Iowa is rated at 4 Pens for Academics–same as for the Univ. of Kansas & for Vanderbilt University–but gets 3 Telephones for Social Life and 3 Stars for Quality of Life.

The ratings for ASU are exciting. 3 Pens for Academics, although the Barrett Honors College rating would unquestionably be higher & this is noteworthy as the Honors College has a significant number of students enrolled. The exciting part is that ASU received a rating of 5 Telephones for Social Life–the highest rating possible–and 5 Stars for Quality of Life.

Interesting, @Publisher. I’ve always thought of KU as being a very well regarded school, especially known for architecture and its med school. But business and engineering has never stuck out for me. Probably comparable to Mizzou.

Sounds about right for ASU overall. ASU’s strengths are, as I mentioned, business, computer science, and engineering, with a number of business programs ranked in the Top 15 or even Top 10, with Supply Chain Management as the second best program in the country.

How do you think Fiske rankings compare with â– â– â– â– â– â– â– â– â–  or US news? Or are these rankings BS anyway?

While we are on this subject, curious what Fiske’s ratings are for the following schools, if you don’t mind telling them:
CalPoly SLO
Johns Hopkins
Univ of Washington
San Diego State


No idea how it could be that Iowa gets only 3 for social life or quality of life. It is annually ranked as one of the top 20 party schools in the country, has big time athletics, an affordable, accessible fun classic college town environment. There are affordable residential dormitories and plenty of off campus housing. Admittedly, it is in Iowa . . . so the weather is not great except for brief portions of fall and spring but that’s the Midwest generally, and outdoor activities like skiing or sailing are limited. Otherwise it is a very social student body with high quality of life.

@Virginia83: According to the Fiske Guide To Colleges 2020:

“A rating of three telephones suggests a typical college social life, while four telephones means that the students devote an above-average amount of time to socializing. It can be assumed that a college with a rating of five telephones is something of a party school, which may or may not detract from the academic quality. Colleges with a rating below three telephones have some impediment to a strong social life, such as geographic isolation, a high percentage of commuting students, or a disproportionate number of nerds who never leave the library.”


The University of Michigan has 5 Pens for Academics, 3 Telephones for Social Life & 3 Stars for Quality of Life. (Same ratings as, for example, Northwestern University.)

Wisconsin has: 4.5, 4, and 4.

Univ. of Washington: 4.5, 3, and 3.

JHU: 5, 3, and 3. (Same as Michigan & Northwestern.)

Univ. of Oregon: 3.5, 3, and 4.

UC-Santa Barbara: 4, 4, and 4.

CalPoly San Diego State are not rated by the Fiske Guide To Colleges 2020, although 28 colleges & universities located in California are rated by Fiske.

Thanks @Publisher

So if ASU’s ratings are 3 Academics ,5 Social Life, and 5 Quality of Life (and one would think Barrett Honors is a 4. 4.5, or a 5 for academics) then at 13, it has the highest total score of all the schools you mentioned, including KU.

KU also has an honors program. Fiske does not award separate rankings for honors colleges or honors programs, but it is reasonable to assume that ASU’s 3 Pens for academics would be higher if rating just the Barrett Honors College. However, I am not sure if Barrett Honors College raised ASU’s academic rating to a 3 as it may have been taken into consideration & blended with the school as a whole when formulating the rating.

A 5 Telephone rating for social life is not necessarily good as Fiske points out that this means that ASU is “somewhat of a party school which may or may not affect the academics”.

I encourage all to obtain & read a copy of the Fiske Guide To Colleges 2020 in order to be better informed.

Yes, KU’s Honors Program is a very good one. According to, the best Honors Colleges are Barrett, KU, Macaulay (CUNY), Florida Atlantic, and UT Plan II.

I would hate to think that Barrett brought ASU up to a 3. I also question whether Oregon would be a 3.5 and ASU a 3. ASU has top programs in business and engineering. While Oregon is a good school, I don’t really know what it’s known for. The business school isn’t bad, but it doesn’t stand out. Clark Honors is good, but not as highly regarded as Barrett.