Many colleges and universities are striving to make campus more inclusive for students, and that includes LGBTQ students. Studies have shown that LGBTQ students who feel supported, safe and accepted do much better in their academic pursuits than those students who may feel marginalized, bullied or forgotten. Learn more about where and how LGBTQ students can find financial and emotional support and discover which U.S. colleges and universities earn the title of the most LGBTQ-Friendly universities.
Schools with gay-straight alliance organizations (GSAs) or similar support organizations are just better places to be for LGBTQ students.
Compared to LGBTQ students who did not have a GSA organization in their school, students who went to a school with a GSA report
LGBTQ campus centers exist to ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment for LGBTQ students while offering support services, resources, programs, connections, programs, training, counseling and more. While some schools offer centers dedicated solely to LGBTQ students, other schools offer resources to these students through their diversity centers. The map below shows colleges and universities that offer LGBTQ student centers, but this map is not exhaustive. If you don’t see a particular school here, be sure to visit their website to see what services and support they offer to LGBTQ+ students.
Craig Leets, Jr. is the Coordinator of the Queer Resource Center at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. Craig earned his Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies with a minor in Leadership and Organizational Studies at Chapman University in Orange, California before completing his M.A. in Counseling and Personnel Services with a focus in College Student Personnel at the University of Maryland, College Park. While working on his master’s, Craig was employed by UMD as a Resident Director, where he worked on gender-inclusive housing, an inclusive language campaign, and a coming out support group for students. Prior to coming to PSU in October 2013 to lead the QRC, Craig worked at Penn State University as the Assistant Director for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Ally (LGBTA) Student Resource Center.
The things that LGBT students are thinking about when they go to college are what we would encourage them to think about. Location is one. Do they want to go away from home? Are they staying at home? Geographic region matters. Online students can study from anywhere, so it probably matters less to them. But for students going to brick-and-mortar institutions, it matters. Urban areas are often more LGBT-friendly than rural areas, so that is one of the subjects we would encourage students to think about.
I would also encourage an LGBT student to determine the extent to which there is a community on campus. For some LGBT students, being part of a community is really important, and some institutions don’t have a community at all, or they have a really thriving and robust community.
For some students, the level of outness is an issue. Some students may not be out to their families. So, the question is: Do they want to go and be out at college and what will that mean? Or, how will that affect their experience? Often we have a lot of first-year students who are not out at home and come to campus and they’re really celebrated and able to be out. Then at Winter break, they want to go home and come out to their families. And we often want to have a conversation about how that might affect their relationships or funding to go to school. So that might be something to think more about.
I think the resources available to LGBT students are also things we would encourage students to take a look at. The number of LGBT centers on campuses is like 200 to 250, as compared to thousands of institutions. And sometimes it’s not just about having a center–it’s about the school’s policies or housing options. So, for example, if a student’s family insists that they attend a school nearby or opt for an online program, the lack of on-campus resources might be a good reason for choosing the online option.
I don’t see a whole lot of prospective students. Most of the students we interact with here are already enrolled. I think we have a number of students who do a combination of online and in-class courses or they will move from taking classes on campus to a term exclusively online. And that could be for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s finances; sometimes they just have other things going on in their lives. One thing in particular that I do know of specifically for trans or transgender people, sometimes when they are going through their transition, they don’t want to be on campus and transitioning at the same time. Online education offers the opportunity to transition while still going to school.
I would say to the person, “Find a place where you can be you and decide what those things are that are the most important to you.” For some people, a big thriving community with a lot of social opportunities is important. For others, activism might be more important. For other folks, they just want to go to school and being out and being visible is not the most important thing to them. So, I would just really encourage the student to look into those schools where they feel like they can be themselves and are able to meet the goals that they have.
The best place to start looking for LGBTQ student support is at your own college or university. Beyond officially-sponsored services such as queer resource centers, LBGTQ-friendly colleges are often home to numerous student clubs, fraternities, advocacy groups, and political and social associations. Below is a list of national-level LBGTQ student organizations:
The Gender & Sexuality Action Committee works to establish the AMSA as a leader on issues affecting the health of women, intersex and the LBGT communities. The Committee sponsors initiatives, programs and events in support of Committee and AMSA issues and causes.
There are literally dozens of college fraternities on campuses throughout the United States that identify as inclusive of gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning men. Among the largest is Delta Lambda Phi, with 32 chapters and six colonies at colleges and universities across the nation. Delta Lambda Phi was founded over twenty-five years ago as a social fraternity for gay, bisexual and progressive men.
Gamma Rho Lambda is a national sorority that is dedicated to providing a social support system for young college girls. Often referred to as the first national lesbian sorority, Gamma Rho Lambda stresses that they are inclusive of all members whether they identify as lesbian, bisexual, ally, transgender, questioning, straight or without a label.
The nation’s only LGBT law student organization, the National LGBT Bar Association promotes interaction between LGBT law students and lawyers, and helps LGBT law students build contacts within the profession. It is involved in organizing its annual Conference & Career Fair, and administering the annual Michael Greenberg Writing Competition and Student Leadership Award.
Through a network of affiliate LGBT MBA school clubs, Reaching Out MBA works to empower LGBT MBA students to become professionals that will lead the way to equality in business education, the workplace and the rest of society.
The USSA describes itself as the “country’s oldest student-led organization.” It develops leaders and amplifies the student voice at the local, state and national levels by mobilizing grassroots power regarding numerous student issues, including the ending of campus sexual and dating violence.
Part if the American College Personnel Association, the SCLGBTA was created to give voice to LGBT professionals and students in the field of Student Affairs. Its stated purpose is to increase awareness, eliminate oppression, and provide support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in higher education for faculty, students and staff.
The leading national nonprofit organization promoting safer college environments for LGBTQ students. It is a volunteer-driven network that offers in-depth and current information on resources, programs, and support services specifically for LGBTQ and ally students across the U.S.
The combined vision and mission of the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Professionals is to “achieve higher education environments in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni have equity in every respect.” The Consortium’s website provides access to research, publications and other resources, including job listings, for its members and others.
Founded in 1985, GLAAD is the nation’s leading LGBT media advocacy organization. According to its stated mission, GLAAD, “amplifies the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories, holding the media accountable for the words and images they present, and helping grassroots organizations communicate effectively.”
Founded in 1990, the GLSEN is now the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Focused primarily on primary and secondary education, the GLSEN works to ensure that all students are valued and treated with respect regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
The NGLCC was founded in 2002 with the goal of creating an organization to support LGBT business owners and showcase the diversity of talent within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
Founded in 1973, the National NGBTQ Task Force claims the title of the oldest national NGBTQ advocacy group in the United States. Through the training and mobilizing of activists across the nation, the Task Force endeavors to advance full freedom, justice and equality for LGBTQ people.
The NOGLSTP is an organization of professionals working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The organization’s mission is to empower LGBTQ individuals in the STEM fields by providing education, advocacy, professional development, networking and peer support.
With over 300 chapters and 200,000 members, PFLAG is the nation’s largest family and ally organization. PFLAG is committed to advancing equality and full societal affirmation of LGBTQ individuals through its threefold mission of support, education and advocacy.
The Point Foundation is the nation’s largest scholarship-granting organization for LGBTQ students. Its mission is to empower “promising lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students to achieve their full academic and leadership potential… to make a significant impact on society.”