According to a study conducted by Campus Pride, about 23% of LGBTQ+ faculty members and students were significantly more likely to experience harassment than their heterosexual peers. In addition, LGBT students and faculty members were significantly less likely to feel very comfortable with their environment on-campus. These findings demonstrate the need for colleges to take an active stance against LGBTQ+ harassment and discrimination ― a stance that, in part, will make it so that LGBTQ+ students feel safe and welcome to attend.

This year we partnered with Campus Pride to bring you the top colleges in the country for LGBTQ+ students. The ranking below combines our Academic and Affordability Metrics along with the Campus Pride Index score, which is a comprehensive national rating system that measures LGBTQ-friendly campus life. Campus Pride takes an exhaustive and multifaceted approach, considering eight LGBTQ-inclusive factors to reach a measurement. The listing also includes descriptions of unique campus resources that provide support to students of various gender and sexual identities.

LGBTQ+ is not a comprehensive acronym. Students looking for resources will likely come across many other abbreviations, since gender and sexuality fall across spectrums rather than set categories. Other examples include pansexual (P), gender non-conforming (GNC), and queer (Q). Acronyms aside, most LGBTQ+ campus resources try to serve as an umbrella resource for many identities. This list examines colleges that provide an exceptional level of support for students of various gender and sexual identities.

Academic institutions continue to take steps to create environments and policies that meet the needs of students with a wide range of gender and sexual identities. These populations have historically been underserved by hegemonic culture, so many college administrations are spearheading efforts to raise awareness of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) identities.

Check out The Best LGBTQ+ Colleges by State

What Are The Best Colleges for LGBTQ+ Students?

Rank School Location Campus Pride Rating Description Toggle

University of Maryland, College Park

College Park, MD Campus Pride Rating:

UMD seeks to foster a fully inclusive community through its LGBT Equity Center, which supports students, faculty, staff, and alumni of all sexual orientations and gender identities. In addition to general educational and outreach events, this center offers resources specifically for trans students, including mental health services and a guide on changing their legal name.

As one of the best LGBTQ+ colleges and universities, UMD helps first-year students adjust to campus life through The One Project. This collection of programs includes a welcome social event and a community-building retreat. Students who want to engage in social justice advocacy can join the Lavender Leadership Honor Society.

UMD's LGBT Equity Center also delivers internship opportunities, allowing students to gain hands-on experience and course credit by collaborating with organizations like Equity Maryland and the Human Rights Campaign. Additional resources include scholarships and student and faculty awards.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


University of Washington

Seattle, WA Campus Pride Rating:

Established in 1999, the Q Center at UW supports queer students and issues. This center welcomes over 500 visitors each month, and visitors can access resources like immigration services, the legal name change process, research opportunities, and gender-inclusive housing options. Queer students and community members can also access information through a monthly newsletter called CampusQ.

To help raise awareness on LGBTQ+ issues, the Q Center provides educational events like the Safer Zone Project, which aims to reduce discrimination and prejudice on the basis of gender identity/expression and sexual orientation. Students can gain leadership skills and build relationships with peers by engaging with the Gender Discussion Group or Color Mode — a group for people of color.

As one of the top colleges for LGBTQ+ students, UW offers three scholarships specifically for queer candidates. Learners also benefit from a mentorship program, meeting with their mentor twice a month to discuss academic and personal challenges.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA Campus Pride Rating:

LGBTQ+ Services at MIT help foster equity and intersectionality across the continuum of social justice by connecting students, staff, faculty, and alumni. In addition to an online newsletter, community members can access a variety of digital content, including social hangouts, panel discussions, and film screenings.

Similar to other top colleges for LGBTQ+ students, MIT welcomes incoming first-year students with orientation events like Samosas and Smoothies, where newcomers can meet returning students. The department also delivers recurring events, which include Lazos (gatherings for trans and queer people of color) and QLAB (open meetings centered on community projects and advocacy work).

LGBTQ+ Services also provides many educational and personal resources. Students can learn about other queer-inclusive campus organizations, athletic groups, and recreational activities. All members, including faculty and staff, may request a workshop on topics like LGBTQ+ history, terminology, and current social and political challenges.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


Princeton University

Princeton, NJ Campus Pride Rating:

Princeton's LGBT Center empowers students of all sexual orientations and gender identities/expressions through community-building events, educational forums, and advocacy initiatives. Offerings include Q'nnections — a mentorship program that uses informal meetings and structured group dialogues. Students can also participate in the Princeton LGBTQIA Oral History Project, which documents the lives of queer people at the university during different points in time.

As one of the best LGBTQ+ colleges and universities, Princeton tackles issues related to bias and harassment by enabling students to report incidents to six offices, including the office Institutional Equity and Diversity. Through the LGBT Center, students can also find educational materials on topics like HIV/AIDS, queer mental health, consent, annd gender pronouns.

To strengthen the queer community and its allies, the LGBT Center supports a variety of campus organizations. These groups include LGBTQ✡J for Jewish students and the Princeton Aces for asexual students.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


Tufts University

Medford, MA Campus Pride Rating:

Committed to expanding queer visibility on campus, the LGBT Center at Tufts welcomes any student, employee, or community member who wants to learn more about gender, sexuality, and intersecting identities. This center maintains a comprehensive guide on changing legal and preferred first names. Students can also access resources for internships, scholarships, and volunteer opportunities.

The LGBT Center hosts a variety of student groups, including QWAND (for queer women) and Transcend Connection Drop-In (for trans and gender nonbinary students). Graduate candidates can join one of three groups, including TUHSQ (for students and professionals in the biomedical field). They can also participate in the Fletcher GLBT Group, which focuses on gender and sexual minority issues in the international relations field.

Like other top colleges for LGBTQ+ students, Tufts supports incoming first-year and transfer candidates through the Team Q program. This group of peer leaders plans queer-themed social events and provides mentorship to new students.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


University of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA Campus Pride Rating:

The LGBTQ Center at UVA fosters the development of queer students, staff, and faculty by promoting awareness of sexual and gender diversity. Community members benefit from programs like Queer Health Talks and panel discussions centered on topics like safe sex, HIV testing, mental health, and transgender health. Through Safe Space Training, participants engage in a two-hour session to learn about important terminology and how to practice allyship.

For students who want to get involved, the LGBT Center offers volunteer and internship opportunities. Students can also engage with community groups, like HISE, which advocates for LGBTQ+-inclusive sex educaiton in public schools. Additionally, participants may help publish the Q* Anthology of Queer Culture, an online literary magazine for LGBTQ+ culture.

UVA funds several queer-oriented award programs, making it one of the best colleges for LGBTQ+ students. Opportunities include the Peter L. Page Scholarship and Grant for highly motivated first-year students attending the university on a full-time basis.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA Campus Pride Rating:

Penn's LGBT Center bolsters the success of queer students through outreach, education, and advocacy. This center also provides supportive resources, including career support and academic research opportunities. Trans students enjoy distinct resources, like guidance about changing their name and access to gender-inclusive campus housing.

Like other top colleges for LGBTQ+ students, Penn publishes a newsletter that focuses on gay, lesbian, and transgender issues on campus. Through its LGBT Center, the university delivers an array of social and educational events. Offerings include the Staff Tea Time, where Penn employees connected to the LGBTQ+ community can check in and share resiliency strategies.

Lastly, Penn hosts an annual LGBTQ+ cultural week called QPenn. In addition to being a celebration of queer culture, the event offers resume workshops, mental health discussions, and panels on special topics like the roles race and ethnicity play in LGBTQ+ identity. Furthermore, QPenn promotes visual and performing arts through film screenings and drag shows.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


San Diego State University

San Diego, CA Campus Pride Rating:

The Pride Center at SDSU seeks to create a safe and inclusive space for students of all genders and sexualities, along with their allies. This center facilitates campus-wide educational campaigns, like the Constellation of You worksheet, which centers the personal experiences of queer, trans, and nonbinary individuals. Students can also access gender-inclusive restrooms and drug/alcohol rehabilitation services.

Through the Pride Center, students, staff, and faculty can engage in weekly group counseling sessions called Talk It Out. They may also attend dinners for queer and trans people of color. Like other top colleges for LGBTQ+ students, SDSU provides ally training through its Safe Zone initiative.

Students who want to develop leadership skills within a social justice context can participate in the Pride House. This peer mentorship program pairs new learners with an experienced student who provides academic guidance and support.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


The Ohio State University

Columbus, OH Campus Pride Rating:

Through Ohio State's Multicultural Center, LGBTQ Initatives advocates for the distinct academic and social needs of gay, lesbian, transgender, and nonbinary students. Incoming first-year and transfer candidates can meet current students and faculty by attending First Year Q*mmunity group meetings every first and third Tuesdays of the month. They can delve further into university culture by engaging in Q*mmunity Dialogues, which center on topics like identity and navigating community life.

As one of the best LGBTQ+ colleges, Ohio State provides a variety of leadership development opportunities. Students can attend the LGBTQ Leader's Consortium — an umbrella meeting for different campus organizations dedicated to tackling salient issues affecting queer communities. The university also provides travel grants for students who want to attend national conferences.

Ohio State's LGBTQ Initiatives also offers educational events, including the 101 Series. These mini-training programs provide a closer look at different communities within the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


Harvey Mudd College

Claremont, CA Campus Pride Rating:

The Queer Resource Center (QRC) serves all seven institutions within The Claremount Colleges network, including Harvey Mudd. Students can use the QRC's lounge and lobby (nicknamed the "Rainbow Ski Lodge") to study, hang out, and host organizational meetings. All staff, including the QRC director and assistant director, maintain drop-in hours, enabling students to discuss research topics or talk about personal challenges related to gender identity and sexual orientation.

Similar to other top colleges for LGBTQ+ students, Harvey Mudd offers queer allyship training that helps participants stay up to date with language and issues surrounding queer identities. The QRC hosts a variety of social events, including movie screenings and art workshops. Students can also get together to play video and board games at one of the Gaymer Nights.

To celebrate academic and community contributions, the QRC hosts an annual Lavender Graduation. This event highlights the accomplishments of graduating seniors and includes an award ceremony and keynote speech.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


Lehigh University

Bethlehem, PA Campus Pride Rating:

The Pride Center for Sexual Orientation & Gender Diversity works to create a world where all individuals can thrive as their full and authentic selves. As part of Lehigh's Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity, the Pride Center provides professional development opportunities through its LUally Training program. Participants receive an official sticker that reflects their dedication to respecting queer stories and human rights.

As one of the best LGBTQ+ colleges, Lehigh delivers a mentorship cohort experience for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty and staff. Named IRIS, this program helps participants explore their own experiences and identities and learn how these factors connect to social change.

Lehigh's Pride Center helps trans students access resources specifically for their needs, including a guide to gender-inclusive restrooms and mental health services. Trans students also benefit from their own first-year experience events and peer mentorship.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


University of California, Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA Campus Pride Rating:

The LGBTQ Campus Resource Center at UCLA delivers a comprehensive array of advocacy and educational services for students across the gender and sexual identity spectrum. Students can access direct support through one-on-one counseling/psychological services and career development guidance. Queer and trans undocumented students can also take advantage of distinct academic and financial resources.

Through the LGBTQ Center, UCLA provides weekly events, making it one of the best LGBTQ+ colleges and universities. For example, Queer Fandom Fanatics welcomes students who want to geek out about pop culture through an intersectional lense. Additionally, graduate candidates can network with one another by attending the weekly We Write the Rainbow coworking event.

For students who want to develop their leadership capabilities, the LGBTQ Center provides internship, conferencing, and volunteer opportunities. Learners can also attend the annual Student Leadership Retreat to gain confidence and advanced skills.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


Purdue University

West Lafayette, IN Campus Pride Rating:

The LGBTQ Center at Purdue engages the entire campus community in queer issues through educational, outreach, and advocacy programs. Students can access resources related to health insurance, mental health services, and HIV/STI prevention and testing. They can also get help with changing their name and coming out to family and friends.

Purdue stands apart from other colleges for LGBTQ+ students by offering an LGBT studies minor. Here, students complete a 12-credit curriculum that teaches them to critically assess the socio-historical context of sexuality and gender. They can apply these ideas by participating in a six-week study abroad trip to New York, Paris, or Berlin.

Students may spend time with peers and other community members by attending Fabulous Fridays — weekly events where attendees play board games, do crafts, and engage in other self-care activities. In addition to general queer ally training provided through the Safe Zone platform, the LGBTQ Center provides specialized training sessions centered on trans-inclusive practices and policies.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


The University of Texas at Dallas

Richardson, TX Campus Pride Rating:

Founded in 1996, the Galerstein Gender Center advocates for women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and other oppressed communities. As part of the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement at UT Dallas, this center houses a study space and a collection of books on gender diversity and feminism. In addition to resources on health/wellness and the name change process, students can find childcare support and other parenting services.

All UT Dallas community members can participate in Culture of Equity training, receiving a certificate upon completion that reflects their willingness to fight for a diverse and inclusive campus. The Galerstein Gender Center also provides Safe Zone Ally training and mini-workshops on specialized topics. Students can also attend the Gender Studies Lecture Series to hear renowned scholars share their research on gender and queer issues.

UT Dallas celebrates Trans Day of Remembrance and National Coming Out Day. Students can also attend monthly events like Q-TEA, which seeks to expand the campus community's understanding of queerness.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


University of California, Davis

Davis, CA Campus Pride Rating:

As one of the best LGBTQ+ colleges and universities, UC Davis provides a safe and inclusive space through its LGBTQIA Resource Center. Students can ask for support with health and wellness issues, campus housing, hate and bias incidents, and study abroad. This center also connects trans students with specialized resources related to name changes and gender affirmation.

Individuals who want to get involved with community building and advocacy can apply for volunteer positions. Opportunities include working with the City of Davis to run a youth group for Yolo County middle and high school students. Candidates can also apply for paid scholar staff positions.

To celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, UC Davis participates in Pride Month and offers a series of events centered on the year's official theme. Other annual events include the Queer Leadership Retreat, which provides first-year and transfer students the opportunity to build communities and examine their individual identity.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


Williams College

Williamstown, MA Campus Pride Rating:

The Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GRSC) at Williams provides a space for campus community members to learn about sex, sexuality, and gender. Students can learn about safe and consensual sex along with online dating and measures against sexual assault. The GRSC also offers a place where students can get condoms, dental dams, and other sex supplies at anytime of the day.

As one of the best LGBTQ+ colleges, Williams offers a variety of programs through the GRSC. Students can attend meetings with the Anything but Straight in Athletics group for queer and questioning individuals. They may also participate in the Queer Student Union, helping create campus events and shape instiitutional policy that supports the LGBTQ+ community.

The GRSC also supports the professional development of LGBTQ+ students by providing career services that help them build their resume and find internships and paid work. Students can also get help with study abroad experiences, ensuring that trips are safe and enriching.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


University of California, San Diego

La Jolla, CA Campus Pride Rating:

The LGBT Resource Center at UC San Diego opened its doors in 1999 as a diverse and public space where community members can explore issues related to sexual and gender identity. In addition to general resources for resident life, this center provides financial aid, like the Christopher B. Arrott LGBTQ Endowed Scholarship for undergraduate candidates.

As a top college for LGBTQ+ students, UC San Diego offers a variety of event and program options. New students can learn about pertinent resources at the QFair and Welcome Orientation. Learners can also attend an annual LGBTQIA+ Film Festival that showcases students and local artists.

For members of the university community who want to engage in outreach, the resource center delivers workshops through its Social Justice Peer Education Program. Students who want to gain leadership skills can attend Q League Summit, which centers on intersecting and multiple identities.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

New Brunswick, NJ Campus Pride Rating:

Rutgers' Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities provides educational and social programs to students, staff, and faculty. Through this center, students can access one-on-one academic advising and mental health counseling. Rutgers also funds three undergraduate scholarships specifically for LGBTQ+ students, including an award for graduating seniors.

As one of the top colleges for LGBTQ+ students, Rutgers offers several housing options for queer and nonbinary individuals. Students can live in gender-neutral rooms or engage with a thematic living community called Rainbow Perspectives. First-year and incoming transfer students can request to be matched with roommates who share an interest in LGBTQ+ issues.

LGBTQ+ student organizations include UltraViolet (a group for queer women and allies), LLEGO (a group for people of color), and QuaC (a group for Christians). Graduate and professional students also boast their own social and advocacy network known as QGPSA.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


Kenyon College

Gambier, OH Campus Pride Rating:

Kenyon boasts one of the best colleges for LGBTQ+ students, offering comprehensive resources and programs through its Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (OEDI). Students can learn about safe sex and HIV prevention along with LGBTQ+ terminology and tips. They may apply for a variety of financial aid opportunities, including the Better Brothers LA scholarship supporting African Americans in Southern California.

The ODEI coordinates faculty across academic disciplines to offer queer courses like transgender sociology, Francophone graphic novels and films, and LGBTQ+ theatre history. Students can also take a class on gender and sexuality in Native American literature. They may use these courses to fulfill the requirements for a gender or queer studies minor.

Kenyon partners with local and national LGBTQ+ organizations to put on programs like the Queer and Trans Studies Conference — a free event that highlights scholarship, community building, and activism. Through the ODEI, students can also participate in LGBTQ+ History Month and Lavender Graduation.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


University of Central Florida

Orlando, FL Campus Pride Rating:

LGBTQ+ Services at UCF seeks to connect diverse campus populations to resources and opportunities that build a more equitable world for queer and nonbinary people. Students can take advantage of fitness and wellness, mental health, and residential life services specifically for the LGBTQ+ communities. They may also seek out career services, learning about topics like coming out in the workplace or maintaining a confidential personal life.

Similar to other top colleges for LGBTQ+ students, UCF provides workshops through the Safe Zone initiative. This program educates participants on pertinent queer issues and how they can act as an inclusive and responsible ally. Staff and faculty may engage in the Alliance Mentorship program, which allows them to become academic and professional role models for student mentees.

LGBTQ+ Services also provides dedicated support to trans individuals. In addition to gender-inclusive bathrooms, trans students benefit from their own housing options and counseling/psychological services.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Eau Claire, WI Campus Pride Rating:

LGBTQ+ students who attend UWEC can access educational, community building, and professional development opportunities through the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC). General resources include safe sex education, STI testing, and counseling services. Students can opt to live and learn with other members of the queer community in the LGBTQIA+ Floor of the Karlgaard Towers.

To foster community, the GSRC hosts a variety of social events, including the CookOUT for new students as part of the university-wide Welcome Week. Additionally, Q'nnect is a peer mentorship program that connects students with faculty and staff through monthly lunches. Like other best colleges for LGBTQ+ students, UWEC celebrates National Coming Out Day and Women's History Month.

Students interested in the arts can help the staff of OUT — a curated zone that showcases poetry, photography, and short stories. They can also assist with the annual Fire Ball, a drag extravaganza with proceeds going into the GSRC Student Support Fund.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY Campus Pride Rating:

LGBTQ @ Columbia provides advocacy, education, events, and group advising to help all students explore diverse trans and queer identities and experiences. Students can study and hang out at the Stephen Donaldson Lounge. They may also engage with the LGBTQ Family Tree — a mentoring initiative that enables experienced students to act as role models for incoming first-year and new transfer students.

As one of the best LGBTQ+ colleges and universities, Columbia houses a variety of student organizations. These groups include GendeRevolution, which supports trans and gender nonconforming people, as well as JQ, for queer Jewish students. The university also includes a group for LGBTQ+ undergraduates majoring in the STEM fields called Columbia iQ.

Students can build relationships with peers, staff, and faculty by attending a Quench event; this series of lunches and discussions focus on intersectional LGBTQ+ topics. Columbia also hosts mixers for queer and trans people of color and late-night slumber parties and screenings of queer films.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


Emory University

Atlanta, GA Campus Pride Rating:

Emory's Office of LGBT Life seeks to create a just and inclusive campus environment for students of all genders and sexualities. This office connects students to resources related to health, legal services, and even professional development opportunities. Students can also access financial awards specifically for queer candidates, includng the J. Michael Aycock Leadership Development Fund.

Emory also allocates resources for queer and trans people of color, making it one of the best LGBTQ+ colleges and universities. These students can attend academic conferences and conduct research with assistance from the school's Institute for the Study of Race and Difference. They also benefit from discussion groups catering to their unique identities, like BlackOUT and Queer and Asian.

For students who want to get involved, the Office of LGBT Life needs assistance planning events like the annual drag show and Pride Awards. Graduate candidates can help shape university policy by working on the student coalition.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Minneapolis, MN Campus Pride Rating:

The Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life at UMN works to create a more inclusive campus. LGBTQ+ students can access resources like trans health services and financial aid. Award opportunities include the Peter Freund Scholarship and the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence Scholarship.

On top of peer mentorship and Safe Space training programs, this center trains sexuality and gender ambassadors. This group of undergraduate students promote LGBTQ+ issues by leading information presentations with classes, university departments, and campus organizations. Students can also engage with Tongues Untied — a group that centers the experiences of queer people of color and indigenous communities.

Simlar to other top colleges for LGBTQ+ students, UMN offers a queer studies minor that focuses on history, culture, and intersectionality. The university also includes a Graduate Interdisciplinary Group in Sexuality Studies. This intellectual cohort creates and disseminates research on topics impacting gender identity and sexual orientation.

Learn more at Campus Pride.


University of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA Campus Pride Rating:

Pitt students can access educational programs and social events through LGBTQIA+ Resources. They can learn about queer-oriented health services, housing options, and single-occupancy restrooms. This resources center also provides guidance on managing relationships, emphasizing the importance of safe sex, STI testing, and good online dating practices.

Pitt also offers a variety of LGBTQ+ courses. Options include sociology of gender, human sexuality in cross cultures, feminist theory, and politics of gender and food. Students can also pursue independent research and internships as part of a queer studies minor.

LGBTQIA+ Resources supports several student organizations, like the Rainbow Alliance and Pitt Lambda. Students may help with the outreach and fundraising efforts benefitting the Pittsburgh Aids Task Force by working as ambassadors. They can also train to become certified HIV testers. Furthermore, Pitt is home to sororities and fraternities with inclusive policies and diverse membership.

Learn more at Campus Pride.

How to Choose an LGBTQ-Friendly College

In recent years, a growing number of young adults have begun to openly identify as members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ+) community. A 2017 Gallup poll found that 4.5% of U.S. residents ― roughly 10 million individuals ― identify as LGBTQ; this figure was up from 3.5% in 2012. The representation was even higher in Millennials or adults born in 1982 or later; 8.2% of Millennial respondents identified as LGBTQ+, up from 5.8% in 2012.

Many of the country's colleges and universities have taken measures to ensure that LGBTQ+ students feel safe and respected. According to the Consortium of Higher Education Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Professionals, more than 150 postsecondary institutions in the U.S. currently offer on-campus LGBTQ centers, and organizations like Campus Pride maintain up-to-date evaluations of different schools based on how 'LGBTQ-friendly' they are. However, some widespread problems persist. A recent survey published by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that 55.5% of LGBTQ+ students 'felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation'; 30.3% missed at least one day of school in the previous month because they felt unsafe, and more than 10% missed at least four days.

There are many important considerations students face when it comes to choosing the best college or university for them. These include the cost of tuition and housing, available financial aid, academic reputation, and campus size. Additionally, LGBTQ+ students are encouraged to research different schools based on the following criteria:

  • LGBTQ+ Campus Safety: Virtually every campus in the country has strict rules regarding the harassment and abuse of other students, but these policies should clearly outline two factors: the specific condemnation of acts of abuse or harassment against members of the LGBTQ+ community and an explanation of the procedure for LGBTQ+ students that have been abused or harassed.
  • LGBTQ+ Housing: Gender identity is a major issue for many LGBTQ+ individuals. To mitigate this, Campus Pride reports that 263 colleges and universities currently offer 'gender-inclusive housing', which enables any student to have a roommate of either gender. Furthermore, students may feel more comfortable at schools that openly support LGBTQ+ students in their housing information materials.
  • LGBTQ-Friendly Policies: According to Campus Pride, 1,036 postsecondary institutions in the U.S. have non-discrimination policies that extend to sexual orientation and gender expression. Alternatively, the organization also maintains a 'shame list' of schools that 'openly discriminate against LGBTQ+ youth and/or have requested Title IX exemptions to perpetuate the harms of religion-based bigotry'.
  • Counseling and Mental Health Opportunities: In addition to organizations and policies that strive to create an inclusive atmosphere for LGBTQ+ students, many colleges and universities currently offer counseling options aimed at these individuals. In some cases, these services are facilitated by counselors and staff that also identify as LGBTQ.

Video Interview: University of Washington Q Center

Hear from the University of Washington’s Q Center

We sat down with Founder and Director, Jen Self, and Associate Director, Jaimée Marsh, of the Q Center at the University of Washington to talk about the development of their program and the work they do with LGBTQ+ students and allies. Check out what they’re doing right!

How are LGBTQ+ Students Protected Today?

Before attending a college or university in the U.S., LGBTQ+ students should be aware of their legal rights. The following three acts have been passed within the last decade in order to provide more protection and advocacy for all LGBTQ+ individuals, including college students.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed in 2009. The act was named for two hate crime victims: Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming who was murdered in 1998; and James Byrd, Jr., an African-American man killed by white supremacists the same year. The act provides more leeway for federal law enforcement officials to investigate crimes that local authorities have dismissed or closed, allocates funding to aid the prosecution of hate crime perpetrators, and requires the FBI to maintain statistics regarding hate crime incidence rates for different vulnerable groups.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 explicitly prohibits sex-based discrimination of any individual attending a federally funded educational program. These programs include public colleges and universities, as well as elementary and secondary schools and vocational training programs offered by individuals or organizations that receive federal financial assistance. This law does not extend to private undergraduate colleges or private schools that are controlled by religious organizations.

In addition to federal measures like the two listed above, many anti-discrimination laws exist at the state level. According to Lambda Legal, a nonprofit organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ civil rights, 19 U.S. states have passed laws ensuring that LGBTQ+ individuals can utilize ''public accommodations' ― such as colleges and universities ― in the same manner as other citizens. These states are: California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. New Hampshire and Wisconsin have laws protecting equal rights based on sexual orientation, but not gender expression.

Meet Campus Pride with Shane Windmeyer

Founder and Director of Campus Pride, Shane Windmeyer, sits down with BestColleges to discuss what makes a college LGBTQ friendly and what signals prospective LGBTQ students should look out for when researching colleges.


So I think that any campuses that wants to get started being LGBT inclusive or wants to kind of measure where they are at for LGBTQ inclusion — that's why we provide the Campus Pride Index.

It's an online tool that provides about 80 different benchmarks around LGBTQ inclusion and by taking that assessment tool you're able to lead with an action plan.

My name is Shane Windmeyer. I am the executive director, I am the founder of Campus Pride. Campus Pride started in 2001 when myself and a few of my colleagues who were younger professionals in higher education decided that there needed to be a website, a clearinghouse, for LGBTQ+ students who were looking to create change to make their campuses better.

So we started an organization online called "Campus Pride Net" and it was really a clearinghouse of resources for LGBT young people. And it wasn't until 2006-2007 when I published a book called &ldquol;The Advocate College Guide," that was the first time ever that we've had a comprehensive look at what does it take to be LGBT friendly.

I think we have reached a time in 2020 where colleges want to be LGBTQ friendly but they don't necessarily know what that means especially when it comes to transgender or bisexual or middlesexuality. And often colleges think that by having a LGBTQ club or a gay pride event on campus or maybe even a drag show that somehow that makes them gay friendly or queer friendly.

And while those programs or those events are important it's about the policies, the programs, and the practices of the campus that create the foundation for campuses to truly be authentic and have meaningful engagement with LGBTQ people and to create that sense of safety that every family or parent or young person wants as an LGBTQ person going to college.

As part of the ranking that we do with BestColleges, we're really taking the data from the Campus Pride Index and what the Campus Pride Index does is it has eight different, what we call LGBTQ friendly factors. Which are eight different areas of campus from housing to campus safety, to academics, to student life, and it looks at these factors and in these factors there's best practices. Or a research foundation of programs and policies that create that environment for LGBTQ inclusion. And so some of those might be having a mentorship program for LGBTQ students.

Possibly it's having gender inclusive policies when it comes to health insurance. So having gender affirmation covered as part of the health plan. It could be having a student club for transgender students or LGBTQ students.

I think it's real important to think about the signals that it takes for an LGBTQ student to kind of get the message that they're welcome and that they're included. That we have out LGBT resident advisors, that we have orientation folks that are out. You should have LGBTQ people just as you do other aspects of diversity in everything you do on campus.

That includes queer people, LGBTQ language that calls out transgender lives and their experiences. That talks about bisexuality, talks about being gay, uses the term "LGBTQ+".

It is so simple for people to think, 'Oh, I have a rainbow flag' or 'I have a safe space program and we have a safe space sticker on my door' as a faculty member. Those are important signals to send a signal of inclusion but oftentimes our signals are also sent in what we say and what we don't say as administrators, as staff, as faculty, as fellow students.

And so when we talk about diversity, we need to talk about diversity in an intersectional manner making sure that they understand that people of color are latinx or are african american students. Making sure that there are services that are intersectional for those LGBTQ people of color or those queer people of color.

And so we try to look at it from a policy, program and practice perspective. In higher education we can no longer have these silos of 'we're doing LGBTQ student work', 'okay, we're doing international student work', 'okay, we're doing african american work', or 'we're doing latinx community work'. I mean these communities are intersectional and we have to start approaching them that way

I think there's an assumption that every college campus is a bastion of LGBTQ progress and that queer people run the campus and everything is rainbows and unicorns but in reality its only about a quarter to 30% of colleges in this country have inclusion when it comes to sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policy.

So what that means is that there are roughly 60-70% of colleges out there that don't even have a basic policy that says that they don't discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Now when we look at transgender or gender identity that number drops even lower.

And so it's important that you ask about policies. Its also important that you ask about the programs that they have for trans, for bisexual, for LGB … The whole spectrum of the "Rainbow Community" as you might call it, on a college campus.

It's also important to note that there are colleges, sadly, that call themselves religious that openly discriminate against LGBTQ young people. Meaning that they have policies through Title IX that says they can discriminate towards someone for being transgender or gay, for being out on campus. And so you want to make sure you don't go to any of those campuses even though you may have strong religious beliefs.

We are in a time where just because you're Christian or whatever religion you believe in, that is not synonymous with not being LGBTQ inclusive. So, it's kind of tricky because there are many religious schools out there that have created an affirming, welcoming space for LGBTQ people but there are many that also openly discriminate or don't tell you until you really dig deep.

I think at the end of the day, it is about doing your research. Just like if you want to be a scientist, you want to find campuses that support science. So if you want to be an LGBTQ out person on a campus, you want to find campuses that are going to be supportive of you being your authentic self.

How Can Prospective Students Utilize Campus Pride?

Campus Pride was founded in 2001 as an online networking community known as Campus PrideNet; the current name was adopted in 2006. Campus Pride abides by a mission to serve 'LGBTQ and ally student leaders and campus organizations in the areas of leadership development, support programs and services to create safer, more inclusive LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities'. The organization's projects and initiatives are concentrated in five core values: social justice, youth voice and action, empowerment, positive change, and diversity.

Campus Pride's projects and initiatives are concentrated in five core values: social justice, youth voice and action, empowerment, positive change, and diversity

One of Campus Pride's most noteworthy initiatives, the Lambda 10 Project, was launched to 'heighten the visibility' of LGBTQ+ students in fraternities and sororities. The success of Lambda 10 has led to the creation of other projects centered around LGBTQ+ members of the Greek community, including the Out & Greek Conference and the Greek Ally Network. Campus Pride also conducts student surveys at college and university campuses across the country. The results of these surveys are used to update the Campus Pride Index, which awards star ratings (scaled one to five) for different schools based on anti-discrimination policies, LGBTQ+ student resources, and other criteria. Campus Pride also maintains the shame list, a directory of 'the absolute worst campuses for LGBTQ+ youth'.

Students can get involved with Campus Pride in several ways. The organization offers 'stop the hate' training programs that are intended to reduce the number of discrimination incidents and hate crimes on college campuses. Students can also download the 'Lil' Purple Backpack', a comprehensive resource guide regarding laws, organizations, and advocacy programs for LGBTQ+ students; this guide is available for free. Other activities and opportunities include job and career fairs, online training, internships, and Camp Pride, a leadership academy for LGBTQ+ undergraduate students.

Resources for LGBTQ+ College Students

There are many resources available to today's LGBTQ+ college students; the following list represents a sampling of hundreds of options. Please contact your school's LGBTQ+ center for more information about LGBTQ+ policies, programs, and initiatives. You can also search for your institution on Campus Pride to see its current 'LGBTQ-friendly' rating.

Scholarships For LGBTQ+ Students

This list includes more than 30 merit- and need-based scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid that are geared toward LGBTQ+ students. Candidates can also learn about financial awards from high school and college counselors.

LGBTQ+ Student Guide

This comprehensive guide outlines the unique difficulties faced by LGBTQ+ students, as well as a glossary of current terms, tips for choosing an LGBTQ-friendly institution, and a list of pro-LGBTQ+ organizations.

The Campus Pride Ultimate Queer College Guide

This extensive resource from Campus Pride includes checklists and guidelines for prospective LGBTQ+ students for every stage of the application and enrollment process. It offers some strategies for locating LGBTQ-friendly organizations and resources on-campus and within the school's local community.

Effective LGBTQ Strategies for a Safer, More Welcoming Campus

Campus Pride created this list of guidelines to help students hold their schools accountable for LGBTQ+ safety. The list includes tips for evaluating institutional policies, implementing training and development workshops, and creating more visibility for LGBTQ+ students and community concerns on college campuses.

LGBTQ on Campus Online Trainings

Campus Pride currently offers free, 30-minute video training courses for LGBTQ+ college students, faculty, and staff members. The goals of these tutorials are twofold: to increase 'empathy and awareness' for the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ students and build skills and knowledge that foster an environment of on-campus respect.

Transgender Membership in Fraternities & Sororities and Title IX

According to Campus Pride, some organizations have misinterpreted Title IX to mean that fraternities and sororities should remain single-gender and not admit transgender students. This information page outlines current policies and ways that Greek systems can create a more inclusive environment for all students.

Campus Pride's 2018 Best of the Best Top 30 LGBTQ-friendly Colleges & Universities

Every year, Campus Pride publishes a list of the friendliest U.S. schools for LGBTQ+ students. The 2018 ranking includes schools from 16 different states, including historically conservative states like Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin.