2020 College Free Speech Rankings 


The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), in partnership with RealClearEducation, commissioned College Pulse to conduct a survey of students at 55 colleges about students’ experiences with free speech on their campuses. Fielded from April 1 to May 28, 2020, via the College Pulse mobile app and web portal, the survey included nearly 20,000 student respondents who were currently enrolled in four-year degree programs. This was the largest survey of college students about free speech on their campuses ever conducted.

Key Highlights Include

  • Of the institutions included in the ranking, the University of Chicago is considered the best campus for free speech and DePauw University in Indiana the worst.

  • Seven of the top 10 colleges are public state universities, and undergraduate enrollment is above 15,000 at each of those seven.

  • 60% of students can recall at least one time during their college experience when they did not share their perspective for fear of how others would respond. 

  • While 57% of students say their college would defend a speaker’s right to express his or her views in the case of a controversy over “offensive” expression, a disturbingly large minority, 42%, believe their college would punish the speaker for making the statement. Over 45% of college students identified race as a challenging topic to discuss on campus, the highest of any controversial topic asked about.

  • Students’ assessment of free speech on campus is, at least in part, driven by their political ideology, and whether or not they align with the majority viewpoint at their college.





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