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Want to Attend a University where Free Speech is Respected? Don’t Write off Public Universities.


Some individuals seeking out a free speech respecting university to attend may write off state or public schools, assuming that private schools will better fit the bill. Survey results from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), however, indicate that respect for free speech may more often be found at public colleges and universities.

FIRE surveyed over 40,000 students at 208 colleges and universities regarding matters related to free speech for its 2023 College Free Speech Rankings. Based on the answers students provided, along with the content of schools’ speech codes and how school administrations have handled campus speech controversies, the institutions of higher education were ranked and given grades ranging from Abysmal to Good.

Columbia University, the lone school rated Abysmal, is a private school. So also are the two schools rated Very Poor and 15 out of 16 of the schools rated Poor. In the next highest category of Bellow Average schools, private schools outnumbered public schools 33 to 16.

On the other end of the rankings, four of the six schools rated at the highest assigned rating of Good are public, though the private University of Chicago came in first overall. Next up, every one of the 21 schools rated Above Average is public.

The entire list of ranked colleges and universities — including ones ranked in the midrange categories of Slightly Below Average, Average, and Slightly Above Average — is composed of 87 private schools and 121 public schools.

For more details about the survey methodology and the results for individual schools, check out the rankings here.

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