Updated December 13, 2022

College is a time when young people are finding out who they are. They're exploring new interests, forging career paths, and finding their place in the world. For some college students, this also means discovering new information about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. As society progresses, LGBTQIA+* youth are becoming more comfortable declaring their ...

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College is a time when young people are finding out who they are. They're exploring new interests, forging career paths, and finding their place in the world. For some college students, this also means discovering new information about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. As society progresses, LGBTQIA+* youth are becoming more comfortable declaring their true identities at an earlier age. However, they may still see college as a place where they can enjoy more freedom of expression. Or maybe they want to deepen their involvement in the LGBTQ community - perhaps take on a leadership role.

Unfortunately, not all colleges are created equal when it comes to protecting the rights of queer students. Fortunately, there are also plenty of schools that go above and beyond expectations to foster a environment that is safe, supportive, and active in its commitment to the queer community. Keep reading for more information about the 25 that define "LGBTQ-friendly" at its very best!

The 25 Best Value LGBTQ Friendly Colleges Methodology

What makes a college "LGBTQ-friendly"? One could easily come up with dozens of factors to consider, from administrative policies and campus safety ratings to academic programs and student life activities. Still others might point to student survey results, campus resources, or outreach programs as equally important considerations.

So rather than try to build our own all-inclusive ranking from the ground up, we conducted a meta-analysis of other top rankings of universities for LGBTQ students. In doing so, we took care to select sources with unique methodologies.

LGBTQ Colleges Rankings and Ranking Factors
  • The Princeton Review: a ranking that relies on surveys asking students how strongly they agree or disagree with the statement, "Students treat all persons equally, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression."
  • College Choice: a dual-purpose ranking that combines factors like LGBTQ policy inclusion, resources and services, healthcare and counseling with traditional "top college" metrics like retention rate, average graduate salary, and academic reputation.

Taken together, the scores that each college received from the websites above accounted for 50% of our total ranking. So where did the other 50% come from?

Location and Affordability
  • Municipality Equality Index: a report by The Human Rights Campaign that scored 137 U.S. municipalities** on their LGBTQ-friendliness, using factors like relationship recognition, employment practices, and city services and programs.
  • Net Price: a measure of affordability calculated by the National Center for Education Statistics that assesses both tuition rates and fees, other expenses (e.g. cost of living), and average financial aid packages.

After a lot of collating and calculating, we determined our final selection of the 25 best value colleges for LGBTQ students. Our ranking includes a little of everything, from campus-wide culture and outreach programs/activities to academic excellence, community support, and affordability.

*Throughout this article we use various forms of the queer acronym, including LGBT, LGBTQ/+, and LGBTQIA/+. While our use of acronyms may vary (as do those of the numerous centers, programs, and organizations we reference) our commitment to inclusivity is as consistent and strong as the queer spectrum is wide.
**Some of the colleges we considered are not located in one of the municipalities included in the report. In those cases, we used the score of the closest available city, or (if enough data was available) the average score of two nearby cities.

#1 University of Washington-Seattle Seattle, WA
#2 San Diego State University San Diego, CA
#3 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA
#4 Harvey Mudd College Claremont, CA
#5 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
#6 University of Massachusetts-Amherst Amherst, MA
#7 University of California-Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA
#8 Southern Oregon University Ashland, OR
#9 University of Oregon Eugene, OR
#10 Tufts University Medford, MA

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  1. University of Washington-Seattle

    Seattle, WA



    For an affordable university for LGBTQ students with a grassroots bent, look to the University of Washington Seattle. The school's Q Center is almost entirely student run, giving you the chance to shape programming to current needs while gaining valuable leadership and organizing experience. Like many universities on this list, UW's Q Center runs a mentoring program, trains allies to host Safe Zones, and offers a diverse assortment of LGBTQIA+ events throughout the year. But UW separates itself from the pack with a nearly unbeatable net price of less than $10,000, making it one of the most affordable options on this list.

  2. San Diego State University

    San Diego, CA



    One of the nation's top LGBTQ friendly colleges, SDSU boasts an impressive array of services and programs. For one thing, the school operates a brand new Pride Center where students can gather in a safe space to socialize or study. You can even sign up for a campus job at the Center, where options range from academic mentor to peer educator. And no matter your interests, there's likely a student group that will appeal to you. Many of them, such as Aztecs Out in Business, give queer students a chance to bond over hobbies and goals completely distinct from their sexual orientation and gender identity. What's more, chapters of queer sororities and fraternities provide nationwide networking opportunities.

  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Cambridge, MA



    The LGBTQ community at MIT has something of an activist core; they spent months developing a comprehensive set of recommendations for improving the queer experience at the school. And they didn't act alone: with a nod to intersectionality, the group collaborated with other minority groups and communities to ensure their recommendations made sense for everyone. The group also proactively invites queer students with their "You are welcome here" campaign, which asks faculty and staff to post rainbow signs that affirm their commitment to inclusivity. So if you're looking through this best LGBTQ colleges ranking for a school that's constantly pushing itself to do better, MIT could be a great fit.

  4. Harvey Mudd College

    Claremont, CA



    Harvey Mudd shares its Queer Resource Center with the other six colleges in the Claremont Consortium, making it a great place to meet students you might not otherwise encounter. The Center's physical space includes a lounge, computer center, and library with hundreds of LGBTQIA+ movies and books to borrow. This top college for LGBTQ students also hosts plenty of workshops, panels, performers, and speakers, and it encourages community involvement by providing regular ally training and support. And if you're looking for a job or internship that incorporates work for the queer community, the center lists plenty of openings and opportunities to consider.

  5. University of Pennsylvania

    Philadelphia, PA



    Penn holds the distinction of running one of the oldest and best college LGBTQ programs in the country. For 30 years, the school has supported its queer community with social events, student groups, and myriad other resources. One such initiative is the peer mentorship program, in which trained upperclassmen provide guidance as their mentees work through gender and sexuality issues in a completely confidential environment. Penn also designates SafeZones throughout campus. When you see the distinctive sign, you know that anyone who works in that area has chosen to undergo training so they can provide a safe space for anyone who needs it.

  6. University of Massachusetts-Amherst

    Amherst, MA



    UMass - Amherst's historically named Stonewall Center offers up a broad range of support and resources for its LGBTQIA+ community. And thanks to the school's clout, this top university for LGBTQ students manages to bring stellar speakers to campus (Linda Sarsour was a guest). But the school doesn't rely on star power alone. Rather, the Speakers Bureau often lets students themselves do the talking, running panels that seek to dispel myths and providing a forum for discussion among all campus members - faculty and staff included. And for anyone who wants to incorporate their identity with their academic work, Amherst partners with four other colleges to offer a certificate in Queer and Sexuality Studies.

  7. University of California-Los Angeles

    Los Angeles, CA



    With its comprehensive approach to queer activism and inclusion, UCLA easily earns a spot on this top LGBTQ colleges ranking. Beyond the typical offerings of an LGBTQ resource center, UCLA also provides topical programming and resources that address present-day issues. Attend an intersectional hate crime workshop, for example, and learn how racial minorities and queer youth all too often become victims of violent, bias-motivated acts. What's more, UCLA's myriad "affinity spaces" and campus groups (Queer Fandom Fanatics, the Ace Space) let you spend time with queer students who both accept your identity and share your hobbies and interests.

  8. Southern Oregon University

    Ashland, OR



    Thanks to its focus on expanding opportunities in the community at large, Southern Oregon University hosts one of the best college LGBTQ programs for students who want to make a difference. First, an extensive alumni network encourages them to make connections with recent grads, while events and speakers highlight ways to participate in crucial social justice work. But these efforts don't come at the expense of individual growth. In fact, SOU encourages all students to develop enhanced self-awareness and self-knowledge. For those in the LGBTQIA+ community, The Queer Resource Center is the go-to source of support and information. Currently, it is working with resident life staff to develop more queer-centric programming for the campus as a whole.

  9. University of Oregon

    Eugene, OR



    The University of Oregon's LGBTQIA+ support programs are so well-integrated into campus culture that the school even has a branding guide for using its rainbow bar in marketing communications. At this affordable college for LGBTQ students, you'll find multiple housing options (including gender-inclusive housing and a scholars community focused on learning) plus plenty of outreach programs (including visiting days for prospective students and panel discussion). The school is also home to a robust queer-ally coalition that demonstrates the benefits of including the broader community in conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity. Finally, a chapter of the gender-neutral Theta Pi Sigma brings an opportunity for leadership and philanthropy to ambitious students.

  10. Tufts University

    Medford, MA



    With the knowledge that the transition to college can be difficult even when you're not part of a minority group, Tufts started its Team Q program to help queer students during their first year. As part of its initiative, this top LGBTQ friendly college trains peer leaders who serve as mentors and organize social events for freshmen and transfers. Team Q even organizes trips, including an annual retreat to Provincetown. The support doesn't end after freshman year, though. Tufts also hosts discussion groups for the larger campus community, and it provides a confidential space for students who are questioning their identity and could use an empathetic ear.

Thanks for reading our ranking of the 25 top LGBTQ friendly colleges!

College Navigator
Princeton Review LGBTQ Friendly Colleges
College Choice Best LGBT Friendly Colleges and Universities
Governing.com - LGBT Equality Map

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